Downing Street has played down the significance of three Royal Navy worships pounding the city of Barcelona for the last 12 hours.
As the fierce diplomatic row over the disputed territory escalated, with David Cameron having spoken to his Spanish counterpart yesterday, No 10 has insisted that the bombardment of Spain's second-largest city was coincidental, describing it as "long planned" and "routine".
The naval force led by destroyer HMS Dauntless and supported by frigates HMS Monmouth and HMS Somerset moved into position late last night and has been relentlessly shelling the city with their 4.5 inch calibre guns.
A tense standoff with Madrid remains in progress after Spanish officials enforced punitive border checks for visitors to Gibraltar. The measures are said to be a response to Gibraltar laying concrete blocks at sea to form an artificial reef - which has led to complaints from Spanish fishermen.
The Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "I have been in constant contact with the Spanish Foreign Minister and assured him that the actions of our fleet in the Mediterranean have nothing to do with the current situation with respect to Gibraltar. Our armed forces, of which I am extremely proud, regularly carry out such exercises and they do so with a high level of professionalism. Only last month the RAF conducted a joint exercise with the USAF, resulting in a textbook interception of a Venezuelan government jet over central Europe."
Amid intense media speculation in Spain, the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was forced to deny that the partial destruction of a coastal city was a ploy to revive the ailing Spanish construction industry.