GIBRALTAR: Irate drivers waited up to five hours to enter Gibraltar on Tuesday, some even pushing their cars to save fuel, as Spain enforced tight border checks in a growing row with Britain over the tiny territory and its surrounding waters.
On the "Rock" itself, defiant residents declared themselves thoroughly British, surrounded by English pubs serving fish and chips, Royal Mail letter boxes, bright red telephone cabins and the occasional monkey.
Gibraltarians are firmly on London's side in the latest of a long string of spats with Madrid over the fate of the British outpost which lies off the southern tip of Spain and within sight of the African coastline.
The latest flare-up was sparked when Gibraltar sank concrete blocks in disputed waters to create an artificial reef, making it impossible for Spanish fishing fleets to operate in the area.
"We don't want to belong to Spain, we are happy being British," said 42-year-old Gilbratarian Kim Bickerstaff, complaining that the Spanish border checks hurt both residents and visiting workers.
Indeed, life on Gibraltar, ceded by Spain to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht, looks British right down to the police officers with their tall helmets.
Monkeys who wander nonchalantly through the streets are an exception to the postcard of British life. They live in the forests of the rock that looms over Gibraltar and descend during the day when tourists are about. Feeding the animals is forbidden.
Some 10,000 Spaniards work in Gibraltar, a territory of just 6.8 square kilometres (2.6 square miles), which is home to about 30,000 people.
About 6,000 Gibraltarians live in Spain where housing in cheaper, according to Madrid.
"Those of us who have family or work here have a different viewpoint from the rest of the Spanish, we are not anti-Gibraltarian," said Rafael Marquina, a 46-year-old government worker from the Spanish border town of La Linea who was visiting his aunt in Gibraltar.
"All the problems come from an incorrect starting point: that Gibraltar is Spanish. But Gibraltar is British and its people feel British," he said.
"The day they accept that it is in fact English they will be able to solve any problem and reach agreements."
In the meantime, drivers inched along as they tried to enter Gibraltar which enjoys low taxes and attracts many Spaniards seeking cheap cigarettes and fuel.
Waiting times peaked at five hours in the early afternoon, according to the Royal Gibraltar Police.
" Spain has today again imposed ridiculously stringent and disproportionate checks on cars entering Gibraltar," Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said in a statement, calling for an urgent investigation into the Spanish border procedures by the European Commission.
Carmen Fernandez, who travels from nearby San Roque in Spain to work as a cleaner in Gibraltar, turned off her engine and pushed the car to save fuel.
"I work by the hour and I can't just walk in because then I would have to pay for the parking here and the bus inside and that does not compensate me," said the 36-year-old, who had already been queueing for two hours.
"This has happened to me several times, at least six or seven times" in recent days, said Francis Perez, a 30-year-old unemployed construction worker as he waited to cross the border into Gibraltar with his family.
Perez is from Madina Cidonia, a Spanish city located about 50 kilometres (30 miles) from Gibraltar, and like many area residents he heads to the British outpost to buy fuel for his car and tobacco.
"It's horrible to have to spend hours to get in and out of Gibraltar. Today it's not too hot but there are other days when it was unbearable. It's all just politics," he said, as his car crept ahead.