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Spain warns ‘the party is over’ as Gibraltar row escalates


UK Foreign Office warns ‘it will not compromise’ on Britain’s sovereignty over Gibraltar

Heather Saul

Sunday, 4 August 2013

The Foreign Office has said today that the UK “will not compromise” after the Spanish Government threatened to take a hard line over Gibraltar.

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo is considering retaliatory measures as part of the escalating dispute over fishing grounds on the border.

Mr Garcia-Margallo suggested a 50-euro border crossing fee, telling the Spanish newspaper ABC that “the party is over” under the current centre-right government.

Under the proposal every vehicle entering or leaving the Rock through its border post with Spain would be charged, with the proceeds donated to Spanish fishermen who have suffered financially because of damage to fishing grounds allegedly caused by Gibraltarian authorities.

Such a fee would affect tourism and Gibraltarians who regularly commute into Spain to work.

Spainish authorities are even considering closing Spain’s airspace to flights heading to Gibraltar, and changing the law so that online gaming companies operating from the British overseas territory have to use Spanish servers and come under the jurisdiction of Madrid’s taxation regime, he said.

Mr Garcia-Margallo also threatened to start tax investigations into 6,000 Gibraltarians who own residences in the country, to fulfil its EU obligations to control “fiscal irregularities”.

Gibraltar, a British overseas territory lying on the southern tip of Spain, has been the subject of a dispute over three centuries of sovereignty, as Spain asserts a claim on the Rock.

The area is home to approximately 30,000 people and is 6.8 square kilometres in size.

The most recent tensions were sparked ten days ago when Gibraltar began placing concrete blocks into the sea to create an artificial reef that it argued would encourage fish populations. In response, Spain argued that the reef would obstruct fishing boats and ramped up border checks, creating long lines and huge delays between Spain and Gibraltar.

On Friday, the British Foreign Office summoned Spain’s ambassador for consultations. Britain argued the delays, from 26 July to 28 July and again on 30 July, were unjustified.

Foreign Secretary William Hague also phoned Mr Garcia-Margallo to complain about Spain ramping up border checks, which forced drivers to wait for up to seven hours in searing heat.

The Foreign Office yesterday summoned the Spanish ambassador to demand assurances that there would be no repeat of the excessive checks. Gibraltar has complained to the European Commission over what it argues are unreasonable controls at the border, saying they violate European Union rules on free circulation.

A UK Foreign Office spokesman said: “We are concerned by today’s comments on Gibraltar, which we are looking into further.

“As we have said, we will not compromise on our sovereignty over Gibraltar, nor our commitment to its people. We continue to use all necessary measures to safeguard British sovereignty.”


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