UK considering “unprecedented action” over Spain-Gibraltar border controls
Tension between the UK and Spain has escalated over Gibraltar, after Britain threatened to take legal action over “disproportionate” border controls.
The two countries are on strained terms since last month when the Gibraltarian authorities started the construction of an artificial reef. Spain reacted by increasing border controls after the Spanish authorities claimed the reef would ruin fishing in the area.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has publicly complained about the increased border controls which are causing “unacceptable delays”. Spain has declared that checking the borders is perfectly legal as Britain is not part of the Europe’s borderless Schengen Area.
While the UK is thinking about legal action, Spain has threatened to turn to the UN and seek the support of Argentina, which is currently facing off the UK over the Falklands.
Yesterday, a small fleet of British warships sailed to the Mediterranean for what has been said to be a “long planned” naval exercise. The ships will visit several ports, carrying out an exercise with the Albanian armed forces before heading to the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Gulf.
The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Hands off our Rock, that’s what I say. Perhaps it really is a coincidence, as the Foreign Office claims, that we have just sent a fleet of warships to Gibraltar. Maybe it’s just a fluke that HMS Illustrious is about to bristle into view on the southern coast of Spain, complete with thousands of Royal Marines and other elite commando units. But I hope not.”
Because of the gravity of the situation, the EU has decided to prepare for the departure of officials who will try to resolve the situation between Spain and the UK diplomatically.
Britain’s Europe minister, David Lidington, said on Monday: “Britain and Spain matter to each other. We are NATO allies, key trading partners, and millions of Brits travel to Spain every year. But our good friendship with Spain does not mean we will turn a blind eye when the people of Gibraltar are threatened or put under pressure.”