British MPs visit Gibraltar amid border tensions

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A CROSS-PARTY delegation of British MPs will visit Gibraltar this week as it celebrates its National Day amid increased tensions with Spain.

The milestone on September 10, which commemorates the day in 1967 the British Overseas Territory (BOT) held its first referendum on British citizenship, comes as the diplomatic row with Spain over an artificial reef continues to drag on.

European Commission inspectors are due to visit the border later this month to assess the legality of stringent traffic checks introduced by Madrid, which have led to queues lasting several hours for traffic crossing to and from the rocky outcrop at the mouth of the Mediterranean.

The group of MPs including Liberal Democrat deputy leader Simon Hughes will visit along with peers and MEPs for a series of meetings, the Gibraltar Government said. Other MPs it said were attending are Jim Dobbin, Jack Lopresti, Angus MacNeil, David Morris, Bob Neill, Andrew Rosindell, Alec Shelbrooke, Col Bob Stewart and Dame Angela Watkinson.

Representatives of eight other BOTs, including the Falkland Islands, will also be in Gibraltar for the event.

Commonwealth MPs have become the latest group to back Gibraltar and criticise Spain’s manoeuvring in the row over fishing rights. A motion presented to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference in Johannesburg by Gibraltarian minister Samantha Sacramento was passed by MPs from across the world.

The resolution adopted read: “This Assembly notes with concern the reports of continuing harassment of Gibraltar by Spain, including the creation of lengthy delays at the land frontier between the two countries, the threat of imposing air restrictions and numerous maritime incursions into Gibraltar’s waters by the naval and para-military agencies of the Spanish state and considers that this political pressure on Gibraltar is totally unacceptable and that it must cease immediately.”

Spain imposed strict border checks on traffic in protest at the creation of an artificial reef.