A Spanish research vessel which spent 20 hours surveying close to the entrance of Gibraltar Harbour has caused yet another diplomatic incident between Britain and Spain.
London summoned Madrid’s ambassador to explain what it called a ‘serious incursion’ within Gibraltar’s territorial waters.
The ship apparently ignored several challenges from Royal Navy patrol boats.
Diplomatic tensions between the two nations have deteriorated since the summer when Spain introduced increased border checks creating major delays for people entering and leaving the British-run peninsula.
Spain’s actions were in response to a dispute over fishing rights provoked by the Gibraltarians’ construction of an artificial reef.
Last week the European Commission ruled that the checks by Spain at its border did not break EU rules. Britain remains convinced the added bureaucracy is politically motivated.
The two nations have been at odds over the sovereignty of Gibraltar – the limestone outcrop known as the Rock near the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula – since it was ceded to Britain three centuries ago.