MADRID – After an incident involving customs officials from Spain in Gibraltar, the British Overseas Territory has levelled serious accusations against the Spanish government. There is an allegation that customs officers fired shots into Gibraltar territory.
“The evidence surrounding the incident shows a flagrant violation of British sovereignty and possibly the most serious and dangerous incident in many years,” Gibraltar’s Prime Minister Fabian Picardo said on Friday. Gibraltar has yet to verify the facts before deciding on diplomatic responses. “But events indicate that the behaviour of the Spanish officials is unacceptable.”
According to Spanish media reports, two customs officers were on the hunt for tobacco smugglers when their boat stopped sailing. Stones were thrown at them and they were injured on a beach in Gibraltar. The smugglers can be seen in a video distributed on the website of the newspaper El Pais. They shout at the officers: “This is Gibraltar, this is not your job”! In other videos on social media, shots are fired during the argument. But by whom remains unclear.
Britain and Gibraltar are considering the diplomatic response
The Gibraltar government said it would be “a very serious breach of the law and also very reckless and dangerous” if officials from Spain were confirmed to have fired shots in Gibraltar. The governments of Gibraltar and Britain would scrutinise a diplomatic response.
For its part, the Spanish Foreign Ministry criticised the attack on the customs officers, who were seriously injured. The ministry rejected not only Gibraltar’s statement about the incident, but also British claims of sovereignty over the area at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. Spain has long reclaimed the seven-square-mile area in the south it ceded to Britain in 1713.
Governments close to Brexit deal for Gibraltar
The UK and Gibraltar are currently negotiating a treaty. This will clarify the area’s post-Brexit status and future control of the border with Spain. The peninsula, with its 30,000 inhabitants, was excluded from the agreement on Britain’s departure from the EU. As recently as mid-January, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares told Reuters that governments in Madrid and London were very close to an agreement.