Boris: We must ‘prise Spanish hands off the throat’ of Gibraltar

Boris Johnson has waded into the increasingly bitter row over Gibraltar, with a harshly-worded intervention demanding David Cameron "prise Spanish hands off the throat of our colony".

The London mayor's comments come as a Royal Navy warship departs Portsmouth for an apparently "routine" visit to the area, amid heightened tensions over increased Spanish border checks.

"Perhaps it really is a coincidence – as the Foreign Office claims – that we have just sent a fleet of warships to Gibraltar," Johnson wrote in his Telegraph column.

"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.

"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."

HMS Westminster is due to dock at the British territory within a week as part of an annual deployment. Spain has confirmed it was expecting the visit.

Increased vehicle checks at the border have led to long delays in the heat for tourists and residents.

Some political analysts believe it is an attempt by the Madrid government to distract attention away from a corruption scandal currently dominating the headlines in Spain.