Spanish government vessels have unlawfully entered British territorial waters around Gibraltar more than 600 times since the start of 2013, according to official figures. There were 496 incursions in 2013 and 112 in the first three months of 2014, the figures disclosed by Foreign Secretary William Hague revealed.
The busiest month for incursions was August last year, when 68 Spanish vessels entered British Gibraltar waters at an average rate of more than two a day.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The Royal Navy challenges Guardia Civil and other Spanish state vessels whenever they make unlawful maritime incursions into British Gibraltar territorial waters.
“We back this up by making formal diplomatic protests to the Spanish Government about all unlawful incursions. Our challenges and protests make clear that such incursions are an unacceptable violation of British sovereignty.
“We are confident of UK sovereignty over British Gibraltar territorial waters under international law. We make our position clear to the Spanish Government whenever appropriate and we will continue to uphold British sovereignty and use a range of proportionate naval, police and diplomatic responses to incidents”
The Spanish Ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office earlier this month after an incursion resulted in a collision with a Royal Gibraltar Police vessel.
Europe Minister David Ludington said the activities of the Spanish state research ship and its accompanying Guardia Civil vessel had not only been “unlawful” but were also dangerous.
He told ambassador Federico Trillo that the UK Government would take “whatever action we consider necessary” to uphold British sovereignty and protect Gibraltar.