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he diplomatic war over Gibraltar deepened yesterday when Spanish fishermen threatened a sea blockade of the Rock, claiming Britain had “unleashed evil”.
The trawlermen demanded that an artificial reef in British territorial waters be removed or they would use up to 200 boats to closed down the Port of Gibraltar.
Spain’s government backs the fishermen, claiming the concrete block reef that has been placed in the Bay of Gibraltar is illegal.
But the Foreign Office dismissed the claims describing Spain’s stance over the status of the Rock as “wholly unacceptable”.
A spokesman said it was “doing everything” to support Gibraltar’s sovereignty.
The blockade threat came yesterday from fishermen in the Spanish border town of La Linea who unlawfully plunder the fish stocks in British territorial waters.
Leoncio Fernandez, of the La Linea Fishermen’s Association, said the reef was destroying their business and pledged to bring in the blockade.
He warned: “If these blocks are not removed within the next few days, they will soon realise the evil they have unleashed.
“We will speak out with our boats and nobody will be able to move us on.”
Fernandez said he had a fleet of up to 200 trawlers ready to take part, including fishing crews from the nearby ports of Algeciras and Estepona.
The reef, created last week when 70 concrete slabs were planted on the sea bed, was built to prevent illegal shellfish trawling by Spanish fishermen and to protect fish stocks, the Gibraltarian government said.
The blockade threat comes during a week of mounting animosity between Gibraltar and Spain.
Last weekend Spanish authorities deliberately stepped up checks at the border, stopping every one of 10,000 vehicles going to or from the Rock and the Spanish mainland and causing six-hour traffic delays in broiling summer temperatures.
Royal Gibraltar Police had to set up beachside holding areas while volunteers distributed water to drivers as the gridlock threatened to bring the Rock to a standstill.
On Thursday, three lorries carrying cement to expand the concrete reef project were turned back, a move Foreign Secretary William Hague called “wholly unacceptable”.
The Foreign Office yesterday summoned the Spanish Ambassador to raise concerns about the “wholly unjustifiable” border delays and seek assurances that there would be no repeat.
Junior minister Hugo Swire, said: “These delays are unjustified, unacceptable and have no place at a border between EU partners.”
Last night, a spokesman for the Gibraltarian government said that it was “taking all sensible precautions against the threat that Spanish fishermen will create a blockade”.
Gibraltar has been British territory since a treaty agreement in 1713.
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