Boris Johnson has waded into the Gibraltar border row saying he hopes to “prise Spanish hands off the throat of our colony”.
The Mayor of London said Spanish measures were “infamous”, “tantamount to a blockade” and reminiscent of the epoch of the dictator Franco.
He said: “The Spanish authorities have decided, for no good reason, to revive the border checks and general harassment of the Franco epoch. They are causing delay and botheration and they are now threatening a tax on goods vehicles going to the Rock. That is illegal under EU law, and tantamount to a blockade. They must stop it all, and pronto.”
Spanish authorities have increased vehicle checks at the border causing major delays for tourists and residents.
It has also reportedly considered bringing in a new €50 fee on every vehicle entering or leaving the British territory.
The move followed an apparently controversial decision by Gibraltar to drop 70 concrete blocks into the sea next to its territory, which it claimed would create an artificial reef for sea life to flourish.
With Royal Navy warships due to set sail for the Mediterranean on a scheduled deployment, Mr Johnson said: “Perhaps it really is a coincidence - as the Foreign Office claims - that we have just sent a fleet of warships to Gibraltar.
Maybe it's just a fluke that HMS Illustrious is about to bristle into view on the southern coast of Spain, complete with thousands of Royal Marines and other elite commando units.
”But I hope not. I hope that one way or another we will shortly prise Spanish hands off the throat of our colony, because what is now taking place is infamous.“
He added: ”I don't for one minute believe that this spat has been provoked by the Gibraltarians. Forget all this palaver about a few concrete blocks that have been dumped in the sea.“That isn't why the Spanish are going back to the Franco-style blockade. This isn't a row about fish. I am afraid that this is a blatant diversionary tactic by Madrid, and though it would be ludicrous to compare the Rajoy government with the tyranny of General Galtieri and his invasion of the Falklands, the gambit is more or less the same.”