Reports of progress on de-escalating the tension between Spain, the UK and Gibraltar over proposals to introduce a border charge following a fishing dispute seem to have been lost in translation somewhere. This comes as the UK and Spanish government release potentially contradictory responses to the outcome of a phone call from UK prime minister David Cameron to his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy this morning.
According to 10 Downing Street, Rajoy said that the counries "needed to find a way to de-escalate the issue" and is "committed to reducing measures at the border". Both leaders reportedly agreed there should be a solution to the fishing dispute.
But the Spanish government seemed to immediately contradict this story, saying Rajoy told Cameron that the border controls are "perfectly in line" with European rules, as the border in question is not one included in the Schengen Borders Agreement. A government statement on the talk made no mention of any concession, only that Rajoy would seek to find a "swift solution to the current situation generated by the authorities in Gibraltar".
Cameron called Rajoy over “serious concerns” concerning Spanish proposals to charge a €50 fee to cross the Spain-Gibraltar border into the British Overseas Territory. The trigger cause has been a dispute over fishing rights, but there are underlying conflicts regarding the sovereignty of the territory. Other proposals from the Spanish include closing national airspace to flights heading to Gibraltar and an investigation into property owned by around 6,000 citizens.
A fee would impact both tourists and citizens of Gibraltar who cross the border to work. Regardless of the spat, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg will still be holidaying there this year.