The election – which resulted in Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s Socialists winning 123 seats with a 28.7 percent share of the vote, putting him in a strong position to form the next Government – was fought against a background of rising tension when it came to Gibraltar. Agustin Rosety Fernandez de Castro, a Vox candidate standing in Cadiz, said: “Gibraltarians live in Sotogrande and La Linea de la Concepcion and they do not pay taxes. They even get the VAT refund on their purchases. “While we recover Gibraltar we will make them pay taxes or go live with the monkeys.
“Gibraltar is a parasite to Campo de Gibraltar and Spain.”
His remarks were echoed by Vox Party leader Santiago Abascal, who said: “We are fed up with the pirates who harass our fishermen and use our compatriots as hostages. Bravo! Spanish Gibraltar!”
With Brexit continuing to loom large and the European elections next week, the issue shows no signs of going away any time soon.
However, Ashley Barnes, Tory MEP for South-West England and Gibraltar, was unconcerned by the strong language used by Mr Abascal and his colleagues.
He said: “The Conservative Party is absolutely committed to defending the sovereignty of Gibraltar.”
The only circumstances in which returning Gibraltar, which has been in British hands since 1713, to Spain would be if Gibraltarians asked for this to happen – and a referendum held in 2002 had show a 99-1 majority in favour of remaining British.
He added: “It’s not only the Vox Party in actual fact.
“All Spanish parties make provocative comments about this – the recent remarks aren’t that different to what other parties have said in the past.
“When it comes to talking about Gibraltar, it’s probably best to just ignore it and concentrate on the issues at hand.
“There is nothing that I or the Government of Gibraltar can do about it – we just get on with it.”
Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Oxford-educated lawyer Fabian Picardo, had never shown any signs of being concerned by over-the-top statements by Spanish politicians, Mr Fox said.
He added: “He knows Spanish politics much better than I do.
“He is very familiar with over-blown rhetoric.
“The important thing is not the overreact.”
The Battle of Trafalgar, arguably Britain’s greatest ever naval victory, saw Admiral Horatio Nelson defeat a combined force of French and Spanish ships off the Gibraltar coast in 1805.
The Rock remains a key strategic outpost, enabling Britain to maintain a important naval base.