Gibraltar border delays criticised
Spain's ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office for a dressing-down over the lengthy delays imposed on travellers by "disproportionate" border checks as they tried to enter Gibraltar over the past few days.
Ambassador Federico Trillo was told of the British Government's "serious concerns" about the situation and Foreign Office diplomat Simon Gass requested assurances from the authorities in Madrid that there would be no repeat this weekend of the excessive searching of vehicles at the Spain/Gibraltar frontier post.
Cars and lorries were forced to wait up to seven hours at the border crossing in sweltering heat, in the latest flare-up of tensions between London and Madrid over the British outpost in the Mediterranean.
Foreign Minister Hugo Swire said: "From July 26 to 28, and again on July 30, there were long delays at the Gibraltar-Spain border of up to seven hours, as a result of wholly disproportionate checks introduced by the Spanish authorities on vehicles both leaving and entering Gibraltar.
"Disruption to border flows has a direct impact on the prosperity and well-being of communities on both sides of the border. The UK Government's position is that these delays are unjustified, unacceptable and have no place at a border between EU partners."
Foreign Secretary William Hague telephoned his Spanish opposite number Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo on Sunday to express "serious concern" after vehicle searches were stepped up over weekend.
The British territory's government accused Spain of "torturing" vulnerable passengers and causing "unnecessary" hold-ups to thousands of people.
The episode comes amid heightened tensions following a number of alleged Spanish incursions into Gibraltarian waters, which led to the ambassador being summoned to the Foreign Office last November.
Spain claims sovereignty over the Rock, which stands on the southernmost tip of the Iberian peninsula but has been a British Overseas Territory since the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. But the UK Government has made clear that it will not negotiate over sovereignty as long as Gibraltar's people want to remain British.