But now the Spanish have played their trump card by laying claim to 20 square miles of sea around the Rock...in the name of the environment.
And it seems to have worked – for the moment, at least. For the EU has granted Spain legal rights over British waters surrounding Gibraltar.
But the move has sparked protests from Britain and the Gibraltar government and led to a confrontation between Royal Navy and Spanish warships.
The grab for the section of British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW) came about when Spain convinced the European Commission to include Gibraltar’s waters within a new 69sq mile EU marine conservation area called the Estrecho Oriental, to be maintained by Spain.