17th October 2012
The heavy handed response by the Spanish Guardia Civil at the Gibraltar-Spain border will have done absolutely nothing to alleviate mounting tensions.
Under the pretext of tackling tobacco smuggling, residents and commuters were forced to wait for up to six hours to cross the border. It is true that there is a problem with tobacco smuggling, but it is only by working with the Gibraltarian authorities that the Spanish will ever be able to resolve the problem. There is no evidence for a sudden increase in smuggling that might have justified this action.
The actions of the Guardia Civil are obviously endorsed by those higher up the chain of command. They have been carried out in response to the commitment by the British Government to refuse to enter into talks about the future sovereignty of Gibraltar without representatives of the Gibraltarian Government present. It is also a fine example of trying to focus public attention onto a 'foreign problem' and away from the wreckage of their economy.
These tactics are short sighted. It will only serve to ratchet tensions still higher whilst at the same time hurting the local Spanish economy. Every day thousands of Spaniards cross the border to work in Gibraltar, earn money and then travel back into Spain to spend it. If the Spanish authorities make this harder for their own citizens then they will only harm themselves.
In my view the Spanish action contravenes EU law and I have submitted a written question to the European Commission calling on them to investigate these border delays.
Gibraltar will remain British as long as its citizens want it to. The Spanish government needs to accept this. Spain should be working with Gibraltar to promote cross border trade and investment, tackling smuggling and reducing local pollution levels. Current Spanish attitudes solve nothing.