A Royal Navy patrol boat fired a warning flare after a Spanish Guardia Civil vessel got too close to a British nuclear-powered submarine sailing from Gibraltar.
Vessels from the Royal Navy’s Gibraltar Squadron and the Gibraltar Defence Police were forced to react after the Guardia Civil patrol boat appeared to breach the security perimeter around the Trafalgar-class submarine HMS Talent as it sailed through British waters around the Rock.
The actions of the Guardia Civil crew were condemned by the Gibraltar Government, which said they were at odds with the efforts of officials in Gibraltar, London and Madrid to foster cooperation against the backdrop of Brexit.
“The dangerous incident today involving the departure of HMS Talent is regrettable,” Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said.
“It serves to remind everyone of the importance of following the rules of navigation and recognising the respective jurisdictions that operate side by side to each other in the Bay of Gibraltar.”
“The matter must be taken up at the highest levels.”
“We are showing our ability to cooperate on something as complex as the Brexit negotiations.”
“We can surely get our act together in the more prosaic matter of our respective agencies navigating the crowded waters of the Bay.”
Photographs of the incident showed the flare above the Spanish boat as it sailed close to the submarine shadowed by British vessels which blocked its path.
Last night a Foreign Office spokesman for The Convent confirmed that the UK Government would protest to Spain over the incursion.
“I can confirm that there was an incursion by a Spanish state vessel into British Gibraltar territorial waters this afternoon as a British submarine was leaving Gibraltar,” the spokesman said.
“This was challenged appropriately and will be protested to the Spanish Government.”
He added: “The Royal Navy challenges all unlawful maritime incursions into British Gibraltar territorial waters.
“We back this up by making formal diplomatic protests to the Spanish Government.”
The Gibraltar Government also condemned the actions of the Guardia Civil vessel.
Photos by J.J. Fernandez