The Spanish Ambassador in London was summoned to the Foreign Office in relation to delays at the Gibraltar border this weekend.
FCO Political Director Simon Gass on Friday summoned the Spanish Ambassador to the UK, Federico Trillo, in order to underline the British Government's serious concerns regarding delays at the Gibraltar-Spain border, and to seek reassurances that there would be no repeat of the additional checks this weekend.
Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister of State Hugo Swire, said that “from 26 to 28 July, and again on 30 July, there were long delays at the Gibraltar-Spain border of up to 7 hours, as a result of wholly disproportionate checks introduced by the Spanish authorities on vehicles both leaving and entering Gibraltar.
“Disruption to border flows has a direct impact on the prosperity and well-being of communities on both sides of the border. The UK Government’s position is that these delays are unjustified, unacceptable and have no place at a border between EU partners.”
Ambassador Trillo was last summoned to the FCO in November 2012 following two serious incursions by the Guardia Civil vessels into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.
However Spain’s Foreign Ministry reasserted what it considers is its right to impose controls at the frontier with Gibraltar and declared these as ‘not renounceable’.
In declarations attributed by media to the Spanish Foreign Ministry it said that Gibraltar is not part of Schengen and that neither the free movement of goods nor VAT applies to the Rock “obliging Spain to impose controls.”
It said that the controls were of a police and customs nature “on people, vehicles and goods”. They added the controls were necessary to stop smuggling.
According to the reports this was the same message sent by Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo to his British counterpart William Hague on Monday in response to the complaints from Britain. He told Mr Hague that the controls will be reinforced at the frontier “when it is considered necessary”.
From Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo again called on Spain to renew trilateral talks with the UK and Gibraltar, “without touching issues of sovereignty”. Speaking on Canal Sur radio on Thursday he said disagreements between the three parties should be resolved through dialogue.
“The UK continues to back the tripartite forum and so too the PSOE, but the only one who doesn’t support it is the (ruling Popular Party) PP,” Mr Picardo said. “Today there is no dialogue because the PP does not want to talk to Gibraltar.”
The Chief Minister stressed that both the UK and Gibraltar remained committed to three-way talks, so long as they did not touch on sovereignty.
“We could take a step forward and we are at the disposal of Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy or Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo to try and revive this forum and start talking,” he said.
Commenting on the recent border queues, the Chief Minister said the delays had hit Spanish cross-border workers worst, and while every country had the right to conduct checks on its borders, “these should be proportionate”.
Piccardo said the queues had been a response to Gibraltar’s creation of an artificial reef for environmental reasons, adding that only one Spanish fisherman fished in that area on a regular basis.