Gibraltar: Spain

House of Lords written question – answered on 26th September 2014.

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Photo of Lord Patten Lord Patten Conservative

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Warsi on 30 July (HL1323), why they accept that the European Commission has a locus in the matter of the border between Spain and Gibraltar; and whether they consider that locus to apply to action by the European Commission concerning incursions into British Gibraltar territorial waters by Spanish vessels from Spanish territorial waters.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State, Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

Gibraltar forms part of the EU and the EU provisions on the free movement of workers, capital and services apply to Gibraltar. Spain is entitled to establish checks at the border with Gibraltar, but these checks must be proportionate and non-discriminatory in order to remain in compliance with EU law. Pursuant to its role as guardian of the EU treaties the European Commission has an important role to play in assessing whether Spain has complied with these EU law obligations. We have made consistently clear to the Commission that we believe Spain has breached EU law in this area and the Commission recently agreed that the checks giving rise to waiting several hours to cross the border were disproportionate.

Incursions by Spanish state vessels into British Gibraltar Territorial Waters raise issues under the international law of the sea rather than under EU law. The UK robustly defends its sovereignty over British Gibraltar Territorial Waters by challenging all unlawful incursions and by making formal protests to the Spanish government.

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