Until the ‘Gibraltar situation’ is resolved we will compile daily updates in this live blog.
Follow @RGPolice for the latest on queues leaving Gibraltar. For incoming queues phone 20042777.
The live blog is finished but we continue to keep an eye on the frontier queues, and post regular round ups on a our daily general blog.
Thursday 29 August.
18:00 – by late afternoon queues into Spain had reached two hours but suddenly vanished. There are currently no queues at all.
13:00 – Chief Minister Fabian Picardo’s meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron has been postponed to tomorrow because of the House of Commons debate on Syria. Accompanying Picardo on his trip to London is also Gibraltar Gaming minister Albert Isola who meets HM Treasury officials this afternoon.
12:30 – within the last hour, queues out of Gibraltar have started to build.
overnight – Gibraltar police are investigating an incident in which ‘a small number’ of ‘missiles’ were thrown at Spanish police from across the border, apparently from the motorcycle holding area. They are appealing for witnesses.
Wednesday 28 August.
19:30 – the queue situation has not improved since 16:00.
16:00 – @RGPolice wteets: ‘5 lanes of traffic and tail end by Sundial. 3rd lane implemented. Minimal flow into Spain, avoid area if possible.’
12:00 – no queues on the Gibraltar side currently.
11:00 – Gibraltar First Minister Fabian Picardo has met with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague in London. Says the FCO: ‘As well as reaffirming the strong bonds between the UK and Gibraltar and the UK’s commitment to stand by the people of Gibraltar, Mr Picardo’s visit has provided an opportunity for a series of detailed meetings on issues including the unacceptable delays at the Spanish/Gibraltar border.’
While we were away:
DriveEurope is off to the Belgian Grand Prix, Thursday 22 August. We return on Monday and will catch up with latest developments then. In the meantime, we leave you with this overview of Gibraltar courtesy of Alcaidesa Marina, www.alcaidesamarina.com
Wednesday 21 August.
20:00 – very quiet day at the frontier.
roundup – UK Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters at today’s emergency UN meeting on Egypt that, ‘no-one should underestimate the British government’s determination to stand with the people of Gibraltar.’ Talking after that meeting Spanish Foreign minister Garcia-Margallo said the British government had agreed to bilateral talks on the Gibraltar issue in April 2012 and should honour that commitment though the other side disputes this version of events says GBC News.
12:40 – no reports of border queues either side so far today.
11:00 – hard to discern the ins and outs of this one but basically the Spanish government is blocking delivery of sand to Gibraltar after protests from an environmental group over from where a previous quantity of sand was obtained..
overnight – our first Gibraltar joke! @JamesNeish tweets: ‘Guardia at frontier says my passport pic look nothing like me. I politely replied it did when I joined the queue.’ Ta-da. We should really have seen that one coming.
Tuesday 20 August.
19:00 – queues at the Gibraltar side of the frontier built up this afternoon. @RGPolice tweeted at 17:30 that Guardia Civil were carrying out ‘stringent checks’. By 18:30 the queue was three hours and does not look to have subsided any since.
18:30 – the Daily Telegraph’s Madrid correspondent Fiona Govan says the border levy has been reconfigured as a congestion charge, as expected. ‘A possible tax on traffic passing through the congested area of La Linea would certainly conform to EU norms,’ she quotes a source at the Spanish Foreign Office saying.
12:30 – according to Reuters, the UK says it will not negotiate with Spain over the sovereignty of Gibraltar but ‘could envisage’ a discussion over fishing practices (though not control of fishing waters).
11:00 – Spanish foreign minister Garcia-Margallo sets out the situation from Spain’s point of view in a piece in the Wall Street Journal. There’s a whole list of complaints, from the UK apparently not observing a 1968 UN resolution to smuggling, tax evasion, and the environment. The upshot is that Spain will not discuss the matter with the UK unless the concrete blocks are removed.
09:30 – from www.frontierqueue.gi, no queues into Spain this morning.
overnight – more detail on the border crossing fee Spain wants to levy. To be double clear, it wasn’t discussed between Rajoy and Barroso on the phone. All comments come from Barroso’s spokesman in a press conference afterwards. The Commission says a flat fee for crossing would be illegal. Spain is reportedly considering a congestion fee, as in London, according to @DenisMacShane, who also adds, ‘It used to be iron rule not to allow Brussels to arbitrate between London and Madrid on Gibraltar. Cam seems to have sold that pass.’ Former MOD advisor @LukeDCoffey points out, ‘Have you noticed that EU statements refer to the dispute being between UK & Spain. No mention of Gib.’ Finally, Spanish public services trade union ‘Manos Limpias’ has filed an official complaint with the EU about the concrete artificial reef.
Monday 19 August.
17:30 – traffic is flowing freely, at least on the Gibraltar side.
16:30 – Google translating the statement released by the Spanish PM’s office following the conversation with Barroso is very risky. But. It seems to suggest three things: that the conversation was at the request of Barroso; at no time did they discuss a congestion tax (the €50 fee for crossing the border); and that Rajoy asked the Commission to make sure Gibraltar is not breaking European law on money laundering, smuggling and taxation.
15:30 – a very to-the-point statement from the European Commission says, in its entirety: ‘President José Manuel Durão Barroso and the President of the Spanish Government Mariano Rajoy spoke on the telephone today on the Gibraltar issue. They agreed that a Commission fact finding mission should as soon as possible examine in loco the border control / movement of people and goods questions. President Barroso expressed his hope that Spain and the UK will address these matters in a way that is in line with their common membership in the EU.’ As we understand it, the delay in sending a monitoring team was because the Commission needed this permission from Spain.
14:00 – according to @GBCNews, Spanish fishermen have threatened further protests.
13:30 – a fee to cross the border would be illegal Barroso tells Rajoy in their conversation this lunchtime, see below, according to the Telegraph’s new Live Gibraltar Blog via Europa Press following a press conf. with Barroso’s spokesman Olivier Bailly. The mood seems to be that the European Commission wants to keep out of it, or at best play a minor mediation role. Not sure if any UK or English speaking journos were at the PC.
12:35 – gosh, according to the Daily Telegraph, David Cameron is refusing to rule out ‘tit for tat’ action over Gibraltar, including ‘putting constraints on Spanish tourists coming to Britain.’
10:30 – RTE Europe editor Tony Connolly @TConnollyRTE tweets: ‘EU Commission President Barroso will speak to Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy by phone this lunchtime on the
09:00 – HMS Westminster, the 4,000t Type 23 frigate, part of the Response Force Task Group Condor 13 British naval exercise, has arrived at Gibraltar Port. Westminster is accompanied by Mounts Bay and Lyme Bay auxiliary ships. The BBC reporter covering the story says checks crossing the border last night were ‘meticulous’. There had been no significant queues during the day yesterday. @RGPolice say there are no queues exiting Gibraltar this morning.
Overnight – it turns out there was contact between vessels during yesterday’s fishing boat protest. @JamesNeish tweets, ‘Just seen footage of a RIB accidentally hitting another during this morning’s protest. The sea can be dangerous. @David_Cameron solution?’ A RIB is a ‘rigid-hulled inflatable boat’ used by police, etc.
Sunday 18 August.
Saturday 17 August.
17:00 – traffic flowing freely on Gibraltar side.
15:00 – roundup – first Cameron, now Rajoy will discuss the situation with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso according to reports though no time/date has been announced. The Spanish government has made a formal complaint about plans for a hotel/apartment development in the east of Gibraltar saying it contravenes the Treaty of Utrecht. The BBC asks Spanish locals about how they feel about Gibraltar and get a mixed response, though no violent reactions. The Spanish interior minister says Gibraltar imported 140m packets of cigarettes last year and that it’s ‘obvious that they were not all smoked by the residents of the British colony, nor its visitors or tourists.’
13:30 – queue watch. There’s no delay out of Gibraltar at present.
12:00 – @Steven_Woolfe, UKIP Financial services spokesman tweets: ‘The
#EU have announced in advance what date they’ll be monitoring #Gibraltar border. Doubt they’ll be queues that day.’ He includes a link to yesterday’s BBC story on Cameron calling on Barroso to intervene, but there is no date mentioned.
10:30 – @GBCNews reports: ‘La Linea & Algeciras fishermen have changed plans for tomorrow- they won’t attempt to remove blocks but rather protest peacefully in BGTW.’
09:00 – queue watch. @RGPolice: ‘#GibFrontier 5 lanes already implemented. Tailend at the top of the loop. EQT: 20 mins.’ The www.frontierqueue.gi webcam on the frontier view is not loading currently.
note: re the Royal Navy’s Response Force Task Group. Important to bear in mind as it nears the region, one of the ships will be calling in at the Spanish naval base at Rota in the Gulf of Cadiz, on the other side of the Strait of Gibraltar.
overnight – local TV news anchor Stephen Neish, @GibSteve, tweets: ‘Spanish fishermen starting to backtrack: latest reports are that they’re talking about removing “some” of the blocks as it’s “complicated”.’ Referring to apparent plans by Spanish locals to start removing the concrete artificial reef in the bay of their own accord tomorrow morning.
Friday 16 August.
17:45 – queue watch: ‘At present we have 3hrs queues tail end Cepsa and 1 hour queues for Motorcycles.’
17:30 – incendiary tweets from @BethRigby, Financial Times deputy political editor: ‘EC not yet sent a team to #Gibraltar border because everyone on hols. Cameron demands officials go asap, Barroso non-committal – Latest Cameron intervention on #Gibraltar stepping up pressure rather than instigating legal action through EC but intent is clear – #Gibraltar “Barroso explained the EC is continuously monitoring the situation & will do what is in its competence 2 ensure respect 4 EU law” – #gibraltar “Barroso expects this matter is addressed between the 2 countries concerned in a way that’s in line with their membership of EU.” – Basically Barroso has told Cameron to get lost over #gibraltar. He thinks Brits should take Spain to court, or not, but leave EU out of it.’
16:35 – @SkyNewsBreak tweets: ‘PM speaks to European Commission Pres Jose Manuel Barroso who says it would not hesitate to uphold EU laws in relation to Gibraltar dispute.’ The BBC says Cameron asked Barroso to send a team to monitor the border situation ‘urgently’.
16:30 – referring to the burned out car below, journalist @JamesNeish tweets: ‘Situation is tense but a lot of the comments on social media are not helping. Let’s all stick to facts and rise above the challenge.’
12:30 – @RGPolice: ‘No vehicles queues going into Spain, although there is a pedestrian queue. Traffic into Gib. is extremely slow.’
10:00 – Spanish fishermen are reportedly intending to remove the controversial concrete blocks themselves on Sunday morning. Also, a Gibraltarian car was apparently set on fire in La Linea, the town across the border.
09:00 – @JamesNeish tweets: ‘As a journalists we can be surprised by the news agenda. Is it becoming predictable? A good story to report would be no queues on a Friday!’ Traffic flowing freely in both directions so far. No news yet on when the Royal Navy ships are due to arrive; we predict the situation will become much more unpredictable from then.
Thursday 15 August.
17:00 – Gibraltar PM Fabian Picardo tells Reuters he thinks the territory would win any legal case against the Spanish government over fishing rights and border controls ‘game, set and match’. But he adds, ‘I’m putting on the table now the possibility of discussing with Spain a double taxation or tax information agreement.’ Is this a sign of movement or compromise from Gibraltar?
Roundup – Spanish enclave Ceuta in Morocco hopes any moves to restrict Gibraltar’s ship refuelling ‘bunkering’ business will not adversely affect its own burgeoning business in the sector. More Guardia Civil officers have been drafted to the border. Spain has reportedly used ‘firm and tough language’ in its official rejection of British complaints over the border checks saying tobacco smuggling increased 213% from 2010-12. It also says the frontier controls are not a hindrance to free movement.
13:00 – @OlivePress reports: ‘Costa del Sol Tourism said Gibraltar won’t affect Brits coming to Spain. “The English tourist has Costa del Sol as their first choice.”‘
11:30 – @RGPolice says: ‘At 12.30hrs we have No outgoing queues. Incoming queues approx. 4 hrs waiting time.’
10:00 – queue watch. Traffic has been flowing freely Gibraltar-Spain but queues have been building up in the other direction: currently two hours.
overnight – Perfidious Albion! In addition to legal action through the European courts, according to the Daily Express: ‘Britain is also said to be looking at a campaign of sabotage which includes disrupting Spanish activity in Brussels by vetoing its nominations for committees and blocking policy proposals.’ Also, hawkish Foreign Minister Garcia-Margallo will appear in front of the Spanish parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs ‘in the first half of September’ to bring them up to speed. According to @GBCNewsroom, the opposition PSOE party has also requested Margallo to appear before the EU Committee and offered to ‘help restore normal channels between Spain and the UK.’
Wednesday 14 August.
19:00 – traffic still flowing smoothly.
17:00 – a contrary piece from Guardian columnist Simon Jenkins asking why people who ‘claim allegiance to the crown but not the exchequer’ should be able to demand soldiers, diplomats and lawyers when ‘the neighbours cut up nasty’. On paying tax to the UK he quotes one Gibraltarian saying, ‘Why should I pay for people thousands of miles away?’
14:00 – the BBC interviews Ignacio Ibanez, Spanish director for foreign affairs, who says. ‘We are ready to discuss but to discuss we need an environment where you trust each other and, with what happened over the fisheries [artificial reef in the Bay of Gibraltar], it is difficult to trust the UK.’ Ouch. He also referred to the Falkland Islands as the Malvinas.
13:45 – traffic across the border is flowing freely and has been all day so far.
11:00 – the separatist Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC) party, the largest party in the region, has sent a letter of support to Gibraltar PM Fabian Picardo. ‘Your liberty is our liberty,’ said the letter from leader Alfred Bosch. Catalunya, in the north east of Spain, capital Barcelona, has long-held ambitions to break away from the rest of the country.
07:10 – for clarity, the three ships from the Response Force Task Group calling in at Gibraltar – at a time as yet unknown but within five days now – are: HMS Westminster (frigate) and RFA Mounts Bay & RFA Lyme Bay (both Amphibious Support Platforms).
07:00 – queue watch. Traffic seems to be flowing in both directions. After yesterday, one wonders how long this will continue..
Tuesday 13 August.
19:00 Queue watch: a strange day. Traffic leaving Gibraltar flowed smoothly for most of the day while cars queued for up to five hours by lunchtime coming the other way, see photo below. By evening though drivers were waiting up to three hours to leave.
15:00 – former Defence chief Pedro Pitarch says ‘Spain is dropping pants to the UK’ and should make a military gesture in response to the three-strong British naval force due to arrive within the week.
13:00 – @GBCNewsroom: ‘Fisheries minister Sr Cañete to make bunkering laws stricter in waters off Europa Point controversially declared a Spanish SCI by EU.’ Bunkering is ships’ refuelling. See the full story.
Afternoon catch up – according to @GBCNewsroom the Gibraltar government welcomes referring the dispute to ‘international legal tribunals’. The Daily Telegraph says the Spanish government has told London it plans to keep current border controls in place. Further to our musings on Sunday about the power balance between PM Rajoy and Foreign Minister Garcia-Margallo, Conservative MP for Gibraltar Ashley Fox tells BBC Radio Five Live he thinks Margallo is positioning himself in case Rajoy falls in the wake on the ongoing party funding scandal. Makes sense. Gibraltar PM Fabian Picardo tells Sky News Garcia-Margallo is ‘the least diplomatic of the Spanish Foreign Ministers in history.’
Overnight – mischievous and legally dubious proposal from well-connected Brussels blogger Jon Worth: Gibraltar should join the Schengen Zone, i.e. do away with the border completely as between other EU countries.
Monday 12 August.
17:00 – A ‘Your Gibraltar TV’ report – retweeted by a member of the European Commission – says a team will be sent down to inspect the border within two weeks, much faster than originally thought.
15:00 – AGI press agency reports the Spanish Foreign Ministry saying it will not scale down the recently introduced extra border checks between Spain and Gibraltar.
12:00 – Sky News reports the British govt is considering legal action against Spain over the extra checks as helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious leaves Portsmouth for Gibraltar, first stop on the Response Force Task Force Cougar ’13 exercises.
07:00 – London mayor Boris Johnson has waded into the row in his weekly column in the Daily Telegraph, ‘The Spanish must take their hands off Gibraltar’s throat.’ Typically Boris, in every sense, ultimately he blames the Euro: ‘The problem in Spain today is not the Treaty of Utrecht, it’s the Treaty of Maastricht.’ He finishes with a brilliant quote from the Queen who told King Juan Carlos (who protested about Charles and Diana’s honeymoon cruise to Gibraltar), ‘It’s my yacht, my son and my Rock.’
overnight – @GBCNewsroom tweeted that: ‘Between 8 & 9pm Guardia Civil took about 30 secs to check each vehicle entering Gibraltar. At 10pm, the checks ceased & the queues vanished.’
Sunday 11 August.
15:25 – a thought. From the ameliorating noises on the phone to David Cameron last Wednesday, to the call for four-way talks over Gibraltar the other day, PM Rajoy seems to be playing quite soft. Meanwhile, foreign minister Garcia-Margallo was the one who called for blocking airspace and the €50 levy (and who has never met a British person without asking for Gibraltar back says @DenisMacShane). The question is, is this just Mister Nice-Mr Nasty, or – in his weakened state – is Rajoy just not able to control his hawkish foreign minister? Would say the former for the time being but will be watching for signs of the latter keenly from now on.
15:15 – the Daily Telegraph calls the 1779 four year siege of Gibraltar not just ‘one of the longest in history’ but also ‘one of the forgotten triumphs in our military history’. Wonder if that was what was behind @stvharry‘s tweet on 5 August, ‘Ex Defence Sec tells me Gibraltar is most secure redoubt in the world to defend should it come to that.’
14:30 – Reuters report saying Spain will seek the help of the United Nations in the Gibraltar dispute though, ‘The source did not specify whether Spain would ask the United Nations to back a request for Britain to give up sovereignty or adhere to certain agreements, but taking the matter to international courts would mark a change of tack and could increase tensions.’ The article quotes a ‘diplomatic source’ saying, ‘The minister [Foreign minister Garcia-Margallo] is travelling to Argentina in September and plans to exchange ideas over the matter.’
14:20 – all quiet on the Gibraltar front currently, no queues.
10:25 – Google translating Spanish press seems to suggest the €50 congestion fee at the Gibraltar border will be levied on tourists only. Judging by a piece in yesterday’s chronicle.gi, that would appear to be correct.
10:20 – @DenisMacShane says, ‘Now Spanish FM says he will form common front with Argentina at UN. Silly[,] but small scale fishermen in bay of Algeciras have had lives ruined.’
10:00 UK time – traffic flowing freely on the Gibraltar side, via www.frontierqueue.gi
overnight – from local journalist @JamesNeish, ‘Spanish Foreign Minister tells TVE he will press ahead with frontier toll,’ and ‘Margallo dismisses tripartite talks. He will only accept talks as 2 flags (UK & Spain) or 4 to put Gib on par with Junta Andalucia.’ This last point accords with what PM Rajoy said yesterday, via @DenisMacShane. Not sure yet how the Gibraltarians feel about sharing talks with Andalucian local authorities.
Saturday 10 August.
18:00 – The Daily Telegraph heads out to Ceuta, one of two Spanish territories across the strait in Morocco. Speaks to a Moroccan UN advisor on Arab relations who accuses Spain of ‘double standards’. Interestingly, the Spanish response is that, ‘Gibraltar is recognised as an overseas territory and therefore ripe for “decolonisation”, Ceuta and Melilla form an integral part of Spanish territory and have the same status as semi-autonomous regions as those on the mainland.’
14:00 – no queue on the Gibraltar side. Because a Spanish TV crew turned up?
10:00 – @DenisMacShane, former Europe minister and MP, etc, tweets: ‘Rajoy suggests round table – Madrid, London, Gibraltar, Andalusia regional government to discuss fishing, environment probs. In the row a decade ago Gibraltar was excluded.’
09:00 – busy at the border:
Friday 9 August.
17:00 – full details of the Response Task Force Group, from the Royal Navy. It leaves on Monday. Defence Sec Philip Hammond says, ‘This now routine and long-planned deployment will demonstrate once again
its ability to operate as a rapid reaction force on behalf of the UK and, importantly, underlines the global reach and flexibility of the modern Royal Navy.’
14:30 – ‘Spain will take ‘all necessary measures’ to defend Gibraltar interests,’ says Mariano Rajoy, Spanish prime minister, this afternoon. The Daily Telegraph says: ‘Mr Rajoy’s comments appear to echo the language of the United Nations Charter, which uses the phrase “all necessary measures” to authorise the use of military force.’
update: AFP further quotes Rajoy saying, ‘We will take legal measures which are proportionate to defend the interests of Spaniards.’ The comments were made following a meeting with Spain’s King Juan Carlos.
11:00 – AFP quotes Jose Luis Ayllon, the Spanish secretary of state for parliamentary relations: ‘We will never scale back on our responsibility to defend the security and interests of the Spanish people,’ adding, ‘Our willingness for dialogue with all friendly countries obviously remains intact.’ Does the UK come under the title of ‘friendly country’?
09:00 – @LukeDCoffey, Margaret Thatcher Fellow at the @Heritage Foundation – ‘devoted to the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defence’ – and former special advisor at the UK MoD, points out: ‘Funny coincidence that the day RN visit Gibraltar is announced is also the 425th anniversary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada 8-AUG-1588.’ We checked; he’s right.
06:00 – The front page of the first edition of today’s The Independent:
Thursday 8 August.
00:10 – former Gibraltar politician @FabianVinet tweets: ‘Can’t help feeling Mr Rajoy’s now wishing he’d thought of a better smokescreen to divert attention. The Gibraltar ‘conflict’ has backfired.’ Is this a bit presumptuous? Perhaps we’ll find out today.
07:00 – disgraced former Labour MP – and former Europe minister – Denis MacShane writes on Huffingtonpost.co.uk that Spain, the UK and Gibraltar will all lose if the row continues, and that ‘too many Spanish and British politicians have Gib scars on their back.’ He also says he read the Treaty of Utrecht in its original Castillian, and details Gibraltar’s ‘very expensive lobbying operation in London. Any MP who wanted a trip to the sun just had to call.’
07:01 – @DenisMacShane tweets: ‘If Cam making Gib flap a test of getting tough with Madrid doesn’t seem to have worked on read of Spanish press.’
14:00 – all very quiet today newswise. As of this lunchtime there were no border queues on the Gibraltar side.
16:00 – the Royal Navy is sending nine ships to Gibraltar, including HMS Illustrious aircraft carrier and three frigates. They will arrive on Monday. The Daily Telegraph who broke the story quotes an MOD spokesman calling the trip ‘long planned and well established’. It’s apparently part of a four month deployment that also includes exercises in the Med. and off the coast of Africa. Phew! Funny that nobody mentioned it the other day when Picardo was calling for a frigate to be sent down. Perhaps he didn’t know about it, or had forgotten.
Wednesday 7 August
Late news: Hague and Garcia-Margallo have spoken (this afternoon). Unless it’s very cleverly worded, can’t see any news – tho Hague did make the point that Gibraltar chief minister Fabien Picardo was within his rights to revoke the agreement that allowed Spanish fishermen to work in Gibraltar waters (see Telegraph article below).
The BBC’s Gavin Hewitt says there is no mention of concessions at the border in a statement released by the Spanish Government.
The Daily Telegraph interviews the fisherman at the centre of this latest row, the one whose fishing the concrete blocks dropped in the bay are designed to prevent. He says he’s a pawn in the hands of politicians who are using him to make a point. He also says giving the territory back to Spain would be the worst thing for La Linea just across the border: ‘Without Gibraltar, La Linea is nothing.’
Local journalist @JamesGeish tweets, ‘Just spoke to a couple who queued for 4 hours to drive into Gibraltar today.’
@GBCNewsroom tweets, quoting police: ‘there’s no truth to comments on social media that the
#Gibraltar frontier will be closed later today.’
Number 10 statement released. Says next step is discussion between UK and Spain foreign ministers, Hague and Garcia-Margallo. No mention of when that is likely to happen.
PublicServiceEurope asks ‘Will the row over Gibraltar escalate to something worse?’ Written by the president of Conservatives Abroad Madrid. Says Spanish PM will be lucky to survive current corruption scandal and there are lots of Brit-friendly members of his party waiting in the wings. Also says foreign minister Margallo ‘is a man who has spent his entire life greeting every Brit he meets with the phrase “Gibraltar Espanyol”.’
‘No.10 says Spanish PM told David Cameron he is “committed to reducing measures at the border” of Gibraltar. Quick win for Cam,’ reports @PaulWaugh, editor at www.politicshome.com.
David Cameron has – finally – phoned the Spanish premier. Via @David_Cameron: ‘Constructive call with Spain’s PM Rajoy. I made clear my concerns re Gibraltar and that our position on sovereignty won’t change.’
The Royal Navy warned a Guardia Civil vessel sailing very close to a tanker moored off the Gibraltar coast this morning.
The march to war seemed to slow yesterday but has been reignited this morning from the most unlikely of sources: The Guardian. Ana Garcia, a London-based film maker, says in a hard hitting piece concerning the recent history of Gibraltar that she would ‘gladly take up arms to defend it.’
Tuesday 6 August
Peter Hain, former Europe minister under Tony Blair’s government, who negotiated an agreement over Gibraltar in 2002 – subsequently abandoned – ruffles feathers by calling for shared sovereignty in an interview on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
The La Linea Gibraltar Working Group – a forum in the town across the border made up of local reps, including fishermen – has called on the Spanish govt to stop its action at the border, but also the Gibraltar authorities to remove the concrete blocks in the bay which sparked the latest confrontation.
Spain must allow ‘smooth and efficient border crossings’ says the European Commission according to the Daily Telegraph. The EC will send observers, but probably not until September or October…
Argentina has renewed its claim to the Falkland Islands at a United Nations Security Council meeting.
Monday 5 August
So where are we now? David Cameron says he is ‘seriously concerned’ about the situation. The Daily Telegraph keeps saying Gibraltar stands on the southernmost tip of the Iberian Peninsula. Harry Smith, a reporter for Scottish television tweeted that, ‘Ex Defence Sec tells me Gibraltar is most secure redoubt in the world to defend should it come to that. MOD have ‘Bridge over Tiber’ plan’ (described later as ‘3 GPMGs – general purpose machine guns – pointing away from Gibraltar’.) Prime minister Fabian Picardo tells the Gibraltar Chronicle he wants the Royal Navy to send a frigate. The Daily Express reports that Spain has just sold ten Mirage fighter jets to Argentina. The FT says the British govt is looking at whether it can take any action in the EU courts. The local branch of the governing Popular Party says it wants to see an end to the border delays. Regarding a conversation with Picardo, Foreign Secretary William Hague says, ‘It is important to respond to actions, not rhetoric.’ ITV deputy political editor Chris Ship tweeted at 18:00, ‘Some diplomatic movement in Madrid this afternoon over Gibraltar. Details soon.’
Sunday 4 August
In an interview with Spanish daily ABC, Foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo says ‘playtime is over’. The Spanish government is considering a €50 levy for entering and leaving the territory, as well as other isolating measures. It’s hard to see how the two sides can step back from this. Read gbc.gi’s summation of the situation here.
update: According to Sky News, the Foreign office is ‘concerned’ by the comments and says, ‘We will not compromise our sovereignty over Gibraltar, nor our commitment to its people. We continue to use all necessary measures to safeguard British sovereignty.’
Saturday, 3 August
Police warn against taking cars into Spain today ‘unless necessary’. Queues reached three hours at one point as border guards again started to search every vehicle. By this afternoon though queues had subsided. The tension continues to ratchet up in the territory after Spanish fisherman threaten a blockade over the laying of an artificial reef in the bay. The FCO carpeted the Spanish ambassador on Friday over the continuing harassment at the border. In the meantime, should you avoid Gibraltar, or make a beeline for it?
Sunday, 28 July
Every one of the 10,000 cars passing over the border from Gibraltar to Spain were carefully checked by border guards yesterday. Motorists waited for up to eight hours in sweltering heat. There were also large queues on Friday. Local broadcaster GBC News calls it ‘an undeniable retaliation tactic from the Spanish authorities following last Thursday’s incident at sea’ when Royal Navy ships attempting to lay an artificial reef in the bay were disrupted by Spanish fishermen. This is latest in a string of confrontations after mediation between Spain and the UK over the territory broke down last year. Such incidents are often followed by hyper-vigilance by Guardia Civil officers at the border. At the time of writing, there were no queues out of Gibraltar, but drivers coming in are waiting up to two and a half hours according to GBC News.