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Cameron Should Grow 'Cojones' Over Gibraltar Feud With Spain

Source: Gibraltar Chronicle - Tue 1st Jul 2014
Cameron Should Grow 'Cojones' Over Gibraltar Feud With Spain

 Gibraltar is being subjected to ‘a campaign of harassment and intimidation' by Spain and it is time for a tougher response from Britain, a committee of influential MPs has told the British Government.

In a report released today, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons said the UK's strategy of ‘restraint in the face of mounting provocation' had achieved little and left Gibraltarians feeling that not enough was being done.

 "The combination of direct pressure on its border and sovereign waters as well as diplomatic pressure at the EU, UN and NATO, have resulted in a feeling in Gibraltar of being under siege," the report, entitled ‘Gibraltar: Time to get off the fence', said.

"Spain should not be able to pursue aggressive policies toward Gibraltar without harming its relationship with London, and the UK Government must make this clear."

"It is now time to think again about what measures can be taken to discourage Spain from exerting pressure on Gibraltar."

The Committee said the British Government should step up its diplomatic protests and summon the Spanish ambassador more frequently over delays at the border and persistent incursions.

Britain should likewise continue to press the European Commission to tackle the border delays, but be ready to take legal action against Spain if the situation is not resolved within six months.

The Committee also urged the UK to make its support for Spanish aims on the international stage – for example, its bid membership of the UN's Security Council - dependent on improvements to the situation in Gibraltar.

"The behaviour of Spain toward Gibraltar is unacceptable," said Sir Richard Ottaway, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

"We have a situation where a NATO and EU ally is deliberately impacting the economy of a British Overseas Territory."

"But with the FCO taking far too long to register diplomatic protests, we are giving entirely the wrong impression to Spain about how seriously the UK takes these issues."

The 60-page report draws on written and oral evidence gathered during hearings both here and in London.

It explores the background to the current tensions, including Spanish allegations against Gibraltar's financial system and smuggling controls, as well as suggestions that Spain is seeking to distract from its own domestic troubles.

The MPs concluded that Spain was using the border "as a means of coercion".

"We have no doubt that delays imposed by Spain at the border with Gibraltar are politically motivated," Sir Richard said.

"The UK Government is right to look to the European Commission to address this matter, but it should state publicly that it will take legal action against Spain in the European Court if there is little improvement in the next six months."

The Committee also urged the British Government to robustly oppose continued attempts by Spain to use international institutions such as the UN and the EU as a means of securing international support for its case.

The MPs said they were particularly concerned by Spain's withdrawal from some aspects of the Cordoba Agreement, describing this as "a significant backward step" in relations with Gibraltar, and the UK.

They said progress on re-starting a process of dialogue was "long overdue" and urged the British Government to make clear its strategy for overcoming any stumbling block.

"The UK Government should make clear to its international partners that it is a change in Spanish government policy, rather than UK policy, that has brought about the suspension of the much-needed talks," the report said.

The MPs said that the difficulties faced by the current British Government were partly the legacy of a "regrettable" decision to allow for joint sovereignty discussions in 2001, which had raised Spain's expectations.

The UK had since sought to correct this by a consistent message that no discussions would take place without the consent of the people of Gibraltar.

"The ‘double lock' has provided Gibraltar with security following a difficult period," the report said. "This guarantee of self-determination should never be abandoned again."

Among its many findings, the Foreign Affairs Committee found that the actions taken by the Government of Gibraltar in relation to the fishing agreement and concrete reef "…do not justify the increase in incursions, nor the hostile tactics of some of the vessels that conduct them."

"We recommend a more robust approach in defending British Gibraltarian [sic] Territorial Waters," the report added.

The report noted the Gibraltar Government's consultation on the possibility of joining the Schengen union and said Britain should make clear its position on this.

"Although we can see the merit in this idea in terms of removing a mechanism of pressure and creating goodwill, we suspect that the legal and economic implications could be considerable," the report said.

The MPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee also noted that Spain's claims on Gibraltar were undermined by the Spanish Government's defence of its own "overseas territories" in North Africa.

"The Spanish Government's arguments about the constitutional differences between Ceuta and Melilla and Gibraltar are unconvincing at best, and leave Spain open to the charge of hypocrisy," the report said.

Read the timeline of the ongoing conflict over Gibraltar by clicking the link > HERE <

Comment on this Story

It isn't even like Spain's incessant whingeing on the subject is taken seriously by the EC either : How can it be when they show such ridiculous double standards with the likes of Melilla and Cueta ?
Robster - Sat, 5th Jul 2014
Diplomatic pressure from the UK equates to nothing more than moaning and the rest of the EU simply ignoring the UK. It's time the UK followed the stance of other EU countries... When they have a grievance they back it up with sanctions, strong rhetoric and action. How often do the French block imports from other EU states...?! And they get away with it! The UK needs to take action and fast!
Ed Bishop - Thu, 3rd Jul 2014

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