Skip to main content

UK stays committed to Gibraltar in latest row with Spain

By Ed Payne and Saskya Vandoorne, CNN
updated 9:24 PM EDT, Mon August 5, 2013
  • NEW: British PM wants to hear what Spain has to say about Gibraltar border fees
  • The Mediterranean colony has been a persistent irritant in UK relations with Spain
  • Spain says Gibraltar has damaged Spanish fishing grounds
  • The UK Foreign Office says it will seek an explanation from Spain

(CNN) -- The United Kingdom won't compromise over the sovereignty of Gibraltar in the latest row with Spain over the rocky outcropping on its southern tip.

"Our differences with Spain on Gibraltar will be resolved by political means through our relationship as EU partners, not through disproportionate measures such as the border delays we have seen over the past week," the UK Foreign Office said in a statement.

Spain recently ramped up border checks, leaving drivers languishing in line for hours on end. Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Garcia-Margallo also has suggested imposing a 50-euro fee on every vehicle entering and leaving Gibraltar.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron called the prospect of fees worrisome. "Clearly, we remain seriously concerned by the events at the Spain/Gibraltar border on this issue of border fees. The Spanish have not raised the prospect of introducing border fees with us. We are seeking an explanation from them regarding reports that they might target Gibraltar with further measures."

Garcia-Margallo said the money would go to help fishermen whose fishing grounds have allegedly been damaged by authorities in Gibraltar. The British territory has been working on an artificial reef.

"We will be seeking an explanation from Spain following reports that the Spanish government might target Gibraltar with further measures," the Foreign Office said.

The history

Britain's 300-year-long control of the Mediterranean colony has been a persistent irritant in its relations with Spain. Talks on its fate re-started in July 2001 after breaking off in 1987.

London and Madrid came close to a deal on joint sovereignty in 2002, but it collapsed after an unofficial referendum showing that 99% of Gibraltar's 30,000 residents opposed the change and feared they would be abandoned by Britain.

Britain gained possession of Gibraltar in 1704 and legal control of the strategic port with the Treaty of Utrecht nine years later. The treaty granted Spain the first right to reclaim Gibraltar if its status changed.

Part of complete coverage on
updated 11:28 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
With the discovery of debris from the AirAsia plane, investigators move closer to discovering what happened. What are the key questions, and what comes next?
updated 11:40 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
The growth of AirAsia has been a regional aviation success story. The reason behind the loss of Flight QZ 8501 will be key to whether passengers start to shun it, says Alan Khee-Jin Tan.
updated 5:45 AM EST, Fri February 7, 2014
They say there are no stupid questions -- but are there? How about, "Do you speak African?"
updated 9:39 AM EST, Wed December 31, 2014
The year of outrage also applies to China's Internet users in 2014.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
One man swims among sharks without the protection of a cage to make studio-quality, intimate photos of the sea creatures.
updated 6:50 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
Using a technology that has been around for 130 years, a company called Pavegen hopes to create electricity from everyday human activities.
updated 12:06 PM EST, Tue December 23, 2014
Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the world wide web, gives a speech on April 18, 2012 in Lyon, central France, during the World Wide Web 2012 international conference on April 18, 2012 in Lyon.
What's next for the Internet? Acclaimed scientist and fatherof the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee shares his insights.
updated 7:45 AM EST, Tue December 30, 2014
Gone are the days of grainy phone images with the resolution of a poor imitation Monet.
updated 4:00 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
A chilling video shows Boko Haram executing dozens of non-Muslims.
updated 12:45 PM EST, Mon December 29, 2014
"The year in pictures" treks across the globe, looking back on the events that shaped 2014.
updated 11:07 AM EST, Mon December 29, 2014
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.