David Cameron vows to defend Gibraltar
By Fiona Govan, Madrid
3:21PM BST 30 Aug 2013
Gibraltar’s chief minister has warned that Spain’s bid to cripple the Rock’s key refuelling industry would amount to a “huge escalation” of the already tense standoff over the territory’s sovereignty.
Speaking ahead of a meeting with David Cameron at Downing Street, Fabian Picardo said that a move by Madrid to impose fines on refuelling companies operating around Gibraltar would be “an act of absolute bad faith”.
“This is Spain legislating extraterritorially for something that is beyond the jurisdiction of Spain,” the Chief Minister told the Gibraltar Chronicle. “If the Spanish government decides to take that line, it is a huge escalation of the way that they are dealing with this issue.”
Mr Cameron later vowed to defend Gibraltar in the ongoing diplomatic dispute, saying Britain would “always stand up” for the territory and its people.
The Prime Minister said after his meeting with Mr Picardo that the British Overseas Territory, and the interests of its population, “matters to us deeply”.
Meanwhile Spanish police unions organised a demonstration at the border on Friday in protest at verbal and physical abuse inflicted on Guardia Civil officers by angry commuters held in long queues to cross into Spain.
Police unions called on the Spanish government to “defend their interests and support them in their work using all the resources at their disposal”.
“It seems cowardly and perverse to try and use the police and the Guardia Civil in a conflict between the two countries,” a joint statement said.
“Staff from the two bodies, who were on the border with the British colony, were only acting in accordance with the law.
“Nothing can justify these acts against people who are only carrying out their duty,” it said.
The Royal Gibraltar Police are investigating claims that “a small number of missiles” were thrown at Guardia Civil officers carrying out stringent checks on traffic at the border on Wednesday afternoon.
Spain began imposing checks leading to delays of up to eight hours for traffic at the border at the start of August, widely viewed as a retaliatory measure after Gibraltar sunk an artificial reef to prevent fishing in territorial waters disputed by Spain.
Brussels will be sending an EU monitoring unit to the border next month on the request of David Cameron who called the checks “disproportionate and politically motivated.” Speaking after the talks at Downing Street, Mr Picardo thanked the British Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary for their support. “The people of Gibraltar know they have a friend in David Cameron and a friend in William Hague,” he said.
“That Gibraltar continues to be on your mind means a lot to us,” he said.