The Minister of Europe, the Rt. Hon David Lidington MP, today welcomed the Chief Minister of Gibraltar the Hon Fabian Picardo MP to London. 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 provided an opportunity to discuss the unacceptable delays at the Spanish/Gibraltar border.
On 15 November 2013, the European Commission wrote to the UK and Spain with recommendations aimed at easing the delays at the Gibraltar-Spain border. The Commission asked for an update within six months from the authorities in Gibraltar and Spain on how the recommendations were being implemented.
Speaking today, the Minister for Europe said:
It is now six months since the European Commission sent recommendations aimed at easing the delays at the border between Gibraltar and Spain. Despite that, politically motivated and disproportionate checks imposed by Spain continue to create severe difficulties for the people of Gibraltar – and for people on the Spanish side of the border.
Her Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar has taken significant steps, in a very short period, to address the Commission’s recommendations, including:
o increasing powers of authorities to tackle smugglers;
o upgrades to the border infrastructure to make smuggling more difficult;
o reducing the number of cigarettes that an individual can buy;
o raising duty on tobacco;
I am deeply concerned by the delay by the authorities in Spain in responding to the Commission’s recommendations. The Commission has already concluded that the intensity of the checks is unjustified. Spain needs to take simple, practical steps to improve the situation - and quickly.
The government is clear that we will maintain diplomatic pressure on the Spanish government until checks at the border return to reasonable, proportionate levels. We will continue to protect the interests of Gibraltar, its people, its security and economy.
Following the Prime Minister’s intervention with President Barroso over excessively long queues at the Gibraltar-Spain border last summer, a European Commission monitoring team visited the Gibraltar-Spain border on 25 September 2013.
On 15 November 2013 the European Commission followed up with letters to HMG and the Government of Spain containing recommendations aimed at easing the border delays. The Commission asked for updates within six-months and agreed to consider a follow-up visit if appropriate.
Links to earlier related statements: Issued 15Nov13 Issued 2Sep13
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