Britain is considering taking legal action against Spain over stringent border checks imposed at the border with Gibraltar. It is the latest in an escalating row between the two countries and the disputed territory.
Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesman said on Monday that tighter checks by Spanish officials at the border of the contested territory are “politically motivated and totally disproportionate.”
“The prime minister is disappointed by the failure of the Spanish to remove the additional border checks this weekend and we are now considering what legal action is open to us,” the spokesman said.
The tougher checks have caused long delays for thousands of tourists and locals.
Also on Monday, several British warships set sail for the Mediterranean in what the defense ministry stresses was a routine exercise. However, one of the ships is set to dock in Gibraltar later this week.
Last week Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said the country would consider introducing a 50 euro ($66) tax to enter or leave Gibraltar. He said the money would be used to help Spanish fisherman adversely affected by a man-made reef. Madrid claims the reef is a deliberate impediment to Spanish fishing vessels in the disputed territorial waters.
It is the latest in a string of spats going back decades between Spain and Britain over Gibraltar, the territory known as “The Rock”. The diplomatic disputes are frequently sparked by disagreements over fishing rights around the British outpost, which Madrid wants to reclaim as its own.
Spainceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht but has long argued that it should be returned to Spanish sovereignty. Britain refuses to do so against the wishes of the territory’s residents. In 1969, Spain closed the frontier crossing with Gibraltar, which is just 6.8 square kilometers in size (2.6 square miles) and home to about 30,000 people. It was fully reopened only in 1985.
hc/dr (Reuters, AFP, AP)