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Gibraltar 'has Falklands parallels'

An escalation in the long-running dispute between Britain and Spain over ownership of Gibraltar shows "disturbing" Falklands-style tendencies, one of the Rock's MEPs has warned.

After a stand-off between Gibraltese and Spanish police patrol boats over fishing rights, Conservative Julie Girling warned: "What we don't want in Gibraltar is a situation like the Falklands: there seem to be disturbing parallels in attempts to damage the livelihoods of Gibraltar's fishermen.

"The Spanish are not being reasonable in their actions."

Gibraltese police vessels accompanied by a Royal Navy patrol boat intercepted a Spanish trawler fishing off the Rock on Monday. But the trawler was being shadowed by two Spanish police boats and finally left Gibraltar's fishing grounds without incident.

There was a similar stand-off last week and the issue was raised in London on Tuesday at talks between Foreign Secretary William Hague and his Spanish counterpart, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo.

Mr Hague said later in a statement: "We reiterated our joint support for a local solution to the current fishing dispute in Gibraltar. Clearly our views on this differ, but we both recognise the importance of establishing a dialogue between all parties. I look forward to working closely with the Minister in the future."

The Foreign Secretary said that London and Madrid maintained "a strong bilateral relationship", adding: "We spoke about the challenges faced by the Eurozone and the critical need for the EU to agree measures to deal with the economic crisis and encourage growth.

"We also discussed wider foreign policy issues including co-operation on Syria, Iran and Latin America."

But all high-level dealings between London and Madrid have been overshadowed by Gibraltar since Spain lost control nearly 300 years ago.

Gibraltar became a British colony in 1713, ceded "in perpetuity" under the Treaty of Utrecht after being captured by an Anglo-Dutch force in 1704. Repeated challenges to British sovereignty have been rebuffed by Gibraltar's residents, who rejected the idea of Spanish rule in referendums in 1967 and 2002.

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