Britain threatens Spain with legal action on Gibraltar

Britain said it might try to force Madrid to abandon tighter controls at the border with the contested British overseas territory of Gibraltar.

Drivers wait in line on a hot summer day to enter to Spain at its border with the British territory of Gibraltar in front of the Rock (rear) at Winston Churchill Avenue in Gibraltar, south of Spain August 9, 2013.

A roundup of global reports

Tensions are escalating between Britain and Spain over Gibraltar – the tiny, British-controlled sliver of land at the southern-most edge of the Iberian Peninsula – and the water that surrounds it.

Arguments between the two countries started with Gibraltar’s attempts to create an artificial reef by sinking massive concrete blocks off its coast in July. Spain’s government was infuriated, claiming the artificial reef prevented Spanish ships from fishing and demanding that the blocks be removed. This month Spain imposed harsh custom-border controls in what analysts say may have been a retaliatory move. 

Now, a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron has announced that Britain may seek legal action against its fellow European Union member, reports Reuters. 

Cameron's spokesman said Britain thinks the tighter border controls are "politically motivated and totally disproportionate" and should be stopped.

"The prime minister is disappointed by the failure of the Spanish to remove the additional border checks this weekend and we are now considering what legal action is open to us," the spokesman said.

Taking legal action against Spain would be “unprecedented,” said the spokesman. Britain could lodge a complaint with the European Commission, arguing that Spain is in breach of EU law by blocking free movement, according to the BBC’s James Robbins.

However, as Britain is not part of the group of 26 European countries who have abolished passport and immigration controls across common borders called the Schengen Area, inspections at the border between Spain and Gibraltar are legal. 

Spain has heightened border checks, resulting in very long queues that have disrupted not only tourists but also locals who commute in and out of Gibraltar for work, reports Reuters.

The government in Madrid claims that the increased customs measures are needed to prevent smuggling, writes the Financial Times. 

Gibraltar has been a point of contention between Britain and Spain for centuries. The territory was officially ceded to Britain in 1713 as part of the Treaty of Utrecht that ended the Spanish War of Succession. Since then, Spain has challenged Britain’s sovereignty several times, though Gibraltarians have voted overwhelmingly against even shared sovereignty, most recently in a 2002 referendum.

Spain announced that it has considered appealing to the United Nations over the spat. They are also considering reaching out to Argentina, whose dispute with Britain over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands led the two countries to war in 1982, reports FT. 

An official from Spain’s official foreign ministry said that Madrid was considering using a planned trip to Buenos Aires by Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo in September to establish a joint front over Gibraltar and the disputed Falkland Islands off the coast of the South American country.

“We are analyzing this possibility among several others, such as appealing to the United Nations,” the official said. “There is nothing defined yet, but there are several options being considered.” The official declined to comment on whether any approach had already been made to the Argentine government.

Meanwhile, several British naval vessels set sail for the Mediterranean today, with one ship set to dock at Gibraltar, reports Agence-France Press. Though reports in the Spanish media have called this an effort to spook Spanish authorities, British officials claim the naval exercises have been planned for months. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to