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‘We’ll fly where we want!’ Spain defiant over Gibraltar as British airspace row escalates

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And the spokesman also said the Spanish Government had not yet received any official protests – despite a statement issued by the Foreign Office yesterday indicating one was being lodged. A British Airways flight was delayed from both landing and taking off at Gibraltar International Airport on Tuesday, first by the Guardia Civil helicopter, and then by an unspecified fixed-wing plane.

Speaking about the first incident, passenger told Express.co.uk he had been surprised as the plane prepared to land when it went into a sharp turn and headed back out across the sea.

He initially thought it was being rerouted to Malaga, as sometimes happens in bad weather – but had been surprised because there the skies were clear.

He added: “As we taxi to the terminal, the pilot apologises for being a few minutes behind schedule but explains that, ‘an unidentified Spanish military aircraft was in the area’ so he had to wait for it to clear before he could land.”

Neither the helicopter not the plane had contacted air traffic control at the airport, which is the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office later confirmed.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: “Two air incursions were confirmed over British Gibraltar Airspace yesterday.

“We have no doubt about UK sovereignty over British Gibraltar airspace and will protest these incursions to the Spanish authorities.”

READ MORE: Back off Spain! Incursion into British airspace by SPANISH military

Gibraltar is a British overseas territory, and has been in British hands since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

Approximately 15,000 people cross the border from Spain every day to work there, making them vital to the Rock’s economy.

The issue of sovereignty remains a controversial one, with Spain continuing to dispute Gibraltar’s status.

However, the 32,000 residents have voted twice, in 1967 and 2002, to retain their British links, each time by an overwhelming majority.

Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, last month launched a criminal complaint against several leaders of Spanish far-right nationalist party Vox, accusing them of inciting violence.

He said: “There is an important dividing line between the right to speak one’s mind, however much we may disagree with the views expressed, and the incitement to hatred, libel, slander or defamation.

“We will not allow anyone to cross that line unchallenged and we will take every recourse available to us all and each of us, in every tribunal available to us, in order to counter those attempts we perceive to incite such hatred.

“History has seen these moments pass before without those who have raised the temperature in this way remaining unchallenged.

“That won’t happen on my watch and whilst my Cabinet colleagues and I are responsible for the discharge of our affairs.”

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