The Spanish navy was accused of childish provocation yesterday after appearing to sail through Gibraltar waters playing their national anthem.
The stunt was recorded by a local sport angler and footage was later posted online, sparking outrage on social media.
The footage shows a Spanish warship, believed to be the Infanta Elena, sailing along the east side blasting the Spanish national anthem from loudspeakers.
@foreignoffice @HMGoG_MIP enough is enough it may not undermine sovereignty for the UK,but for as Gibralterians it's an invasion of BGTW.The UK Government must take action in defence of it's people. pic.twitter.com/QNGKpCjXKwAdvertisement
— Nicholas Karnani🎗🎗🎗🇬🇧🇬🇮🇬🇧🇬🇮🇬🇧🇬🇮🇬🇧 (@Atajate71) December 4, 2018
A spokesman for the Government of Gibraltar said: “Today’s Spanish naval incursion into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters represents an unprofessional provocation which is as childish as it is meaningless.”
The Chronicle was unable to contact the person who filmed the incident but a close friend, one of the people who posted the footage online, insisted the anthem had been played by the Spanish warship.
The UK Government confirmed the incursion but struck a note of caution about the footage and said it had been unable to confirm whether the music heard on the video had come from the ship.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said the Royal Navy had challenged the Spanish vessel “as with all incursions”, adding that the ship then left British Gibraltar territorial waters.
But he added: “We cannot confirm at this stage whether the Spanish vessel played the Spanish national anthem while in British Gibraltar Territorial waters.”
“The Royal Navy vessel which responded to the incident did not hear the anthem being played.”
The Royal Gibraltar Police, which also had a vessel at the scene of the incursion, took a similar line and could not confirm that the music had come from the Spanish ship.
“Whilst the RGP vessel was further away from the Spanish vessel than Royal Navy assets, our crews did not hear any audio emissions emanating from the Spanish vessel,” an RGP spokesman said.
However last night Spanish military sources confirmed the incident to El Pais and said the Spanish ship had been responding to “a provocation”, claiming ‘God Save the Queen’ had been played over Channel 16, the VHF emergency channel for all marine traffic.
El Pais noted that the captain of the Spanish vessel could now face disciplinary action for playing the Spanish anthem and risking a diplomatic tiff between Spain and the UK.
The incident took a further twist on Thursday night when the vice president of the European Parliament, the Spanish Partido Popular MEP Ramon Valcarcel, tweeted his support for the actions of the Spanish crew in Gibraltar waters.
Mr Valcarcel later deleted the tweet.