The Foreign Office on Sunday reasserted ties with Gibraltar and its commitment with the British Overseas Territory sovereignty but at the same time called for a political answer to the current situation with Spain that is implementing disproportionate measures such as border delays.
“The Prime Minister has made clear that the UK government will meet its constitutional commitments to the people of Gibraltar and will not compromise on sovereignty. Our differences with Spain on Gibraltar will be resolved by political means through our relationship as EU partners, not through disproportionate measures such as the border delays we have seen over the past week. We have many common interests with Spain and wish to continue to have a strong relationship at every level with the Government of Spain”, said a FCO spokesperon.
“The Cordoba Agreement was an example of our relationship with Spain working effectively, with the Agreement benefitting many in the Campo area of Spain. We are continuing to abide by our obligations under the Agreement and we look to the Government in Spain to do likewise. In the meantime, we will be seeking an explanation from Spain following reports that the Spanish government might target Gibraltar with further measures.”
On Friday the British government summoned Spain’s Ambassador to London to complain about delays at the Gibraltar border, even as Guardia Civil officers renewed their tight controls and caused a tailback deep into the Rock.
Border flow ground to a slow crawl just before the evening rush hour and by 7pm, cars were waiting one and a half hours to cross into Spain, reported the Gibraltar Chronicle.
On Friday evening, the Political Director at the Foreign Office, Simon Gass, was having a face to face showdown with Ramon Gandarias a senior Embassy diplomat. Federico Trillo, the former Popular Party minister who is now Spain’s Ambassador in the UK was away on leave.
Mr Gass underlined the British Government’s “serious concerns” regarding the delays and sought reassurances that there would be no repeat of the additional checks this weekend.
However, the message did not seem to have filtered through because Friday night was the first significant build-up of traffic at the border since last weekend’s seven-hour queues.
The Spanish position, voiced repeatedly during the week in Madrid by ministers and officials alike, is that the checks are legitimate controls aimed at preventing contraband and tax evasion.
This is the second time in less than a year that the UK has summoned the Spanish Ambassador. The last time was in November 2012 following two serious incursions at sea.
“From 26 to 28 July, and again on 30 July, there were long delays at the Gibraltar-Spain border of up to seven hours, as a result of wholly disproportionate checks introduced by the Spanish authorities on vehicles both leaving and entering Gibraltar,” said the FCO Minister of State Hugo Swire.
“Disruption to border flows has a direct impact on the prosperity and well-being of communities on both sides of the border.”
The latest round of diplomacy came as Spain’s Foreign Minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, responded to Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo’s call this week for a renewal of trilateral dialogue.
Picardo used an interview on Canal Sur radio to urge Spain to renew the three-way talks with Britain and Gibraltar.
But the message received a cold response from García-Margallo, who said “while this [PP] government is in power the [trilateral forum] will not exist.”
“I said it from day one, it is not possible to place Gibraltar, Spain and the UK on the same level,” he told reporters in Spain.
I related news Madrid’s conservative yellow media newspaper La Razon published the alleged existence of a much publicized “Four point attack” on Gibraltar. The Spanish Government's ‘attack’ includes disregarding Gibraltar's membership of the Open Skies Agreement and subsequent lifting of the Spanish ban via the Cordoba Agreement and the new plan includes blocking and imposing difficulties for aeroplanes to land or leave the Rock, both civilian and military.
A second point refers to attacking Gibraltar's maritime-based economy. This would be achieved by interference and cut off of Gibraltar's telecommunications, and by making tourism entry into Gibraltar difficult and unattractive by introducing long delays and also a 50 Euro fee for entry or exit to Gibraltar.
The front page also mentions that Spain is now seriously considering deploying a military presence and base them in the vicinity of Gibraltar.