Britain mulls “unprecedented” legal action over Gibraltar dispute

London may respond with European complaint after Spanish threat to go to the United Nations

The UK government announced today that is considering “unprecedented” legal action through the EU against Spain in response to recent restrictions at the Gibraltarian border.

The recent tension began with a dispute over fishing rights and led to increased border controls and Spain’s announced intention to introduce a 50-euro fee to enter the British colony.

British PM David Cameron was reportedly “disappointed” that the controls were still in place, with his Spanish counterpart Mariano Rajoy claiming that they were “indispensable” for Spain.

Regarding the proposed legal action, a Downing Street spokesman said: "If we go down this route, we would press upon the EU the need to pursue this with a matter of urgency." It was not yet clear what the legal action might entail. Some have speculated that it might involve a formal complaint to the European Commission, accusing Spain of breaching EU law on freedom of movement. The case could also go to the European Court of Justice.

Our policy on Gibraltar has not changed. Self-determination matters more than territorial integrity"

Spain had justified the new controls, saying they were sparked by an increase in illegal tobacco being smuggled out of Gibraltar.

Spain is reportedly considering its own legal action, possibly involving the UN General Assembly or the International Court of Justice, and is seeking support from current UN Security Council president Argentina in its standoff with the UK.

The two countries could present a united front, with Spain demanding action on Gibraltar and Argentina seeking to reclaim the Falkland Islands.

According to the Efe press agency, the Spanish government has said that the UN does not recognize Gibraltar’s right to self-determination and claims that the UN will support the Spanish position.

A British Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "Our policy on Gibraltar has not changed and is consistent with our policy on other overseas territories. Self-determination matters more than territorial integrity.

"The people of Gibraltar have repeatedly and overwhelmingly expressed their wish to remain under British sovereignty."

British Royal Navy vessels are reportedly set to stop in Gibraltar on their way to a routine deployment to the Middle East this week.

Both countries are emphasizing that the visit is routine and “long-planned”.

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