UK authorities announced on Monday that they are considering legal action against Spain to force the country to loosen border controls in Gibraltar. British Prime Minister David Cameron [BBC profile] accused [Reuters report] Spain of blocking British fishing vessels in disproportionate numbers and said Spain was "politically motivated" in its actions. Spain contends that the border checks are proportional and necessary to prevent money laundering and smuggling. Gibraltar [BBC backgrounder], a British overseas territory located off Spain's southern coast, has long been a point of contention between the UK and Spain, and the recent border crackdown has resulted in longer delays and higher fees for tourists. An EU spokesperson confirmed that a team of officials would travel to Gibraltar in September to investigate whether Spain's policies comply with EU rules.
Some within Spain believe that Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy [BBC profile] is exploiting the situation with the Gibraltar in order to distract from his own corruption scandal and a weak economy. In March an EU court ruled [JURIST report] that Spain's eviction policies violate consumer protection laws. Spain has experienced a rash of protests [Reuters report] this year, in response to unpopular austerity measures and corruption.