Spain threatens to derail Brexit deal over Gibraltar

Randal Sanchez
November 23, 2018

Prime Minister Theresa May on Thursday hailed a draft Brexit agreement for future ties between London and Brussels as "the right deal" for Britain and said she was "determined to deliver it".

A small peninsula on Spain's southern coast and a British territory since 1713, Gibraltar is a major point of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations.

Sources from the meeting claim Spain argued Gibraltar is not a part of the United Kingdom, meaning any future agreement can't apply to its territory.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said his country would vote against it, should not be considered the future of Gibraltar as a bilateral matter between Spain and the United Kingdom.

Downing Street has repeatedly made clear that agreement is needed on the future framework in order to press ahead with the legally-binding withdrawal agreement.

Britain is due to leave the European Union on March 29 2019 and diplomats are trying to put the finishing touches to a divorce deal and the accompanying outline of their future relationship so that European Union leaders can rubber-stamp them at a summit on Sunday.

Pedro Sanchez telephoned Theresa May yesterday (Wednesday) and told her Spain would vote no to the agreement unless it states Madrid and London will talk exclusively about Gibraltar post-Brexit.

Last year's European Union guidelines on the Brexit negotiations effectively gave Spain veto powers over future relations between the bloc and the British overseas territory.

But Borrell rejected this idea, suggesting Sunday's meeting should not take place if the issue were not resolved beforehand.

Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell arrives prior to a Foreign Affairs Council on article 50 at the European Council in Brussels

She said: "We are absolutely steadfast as he is in our support for Gibraltar, its people and its economy and we've always been clear that Gibraltar is covered by our exit negotiations and we've been committed to fully involve them as we exit the European Union".

Theresa May was negotiating late into the night on Wednesday with Jean-Claude Juncker.

Should the DUP not support the Brexit deal when it comes before MPs, May will face an even greater task at getting it through parliament.

Brexit needs an explicit carve-out for Gibraltar, Spain's foreign minister and prime minister said Tuesday.

European diplomats and EU officials have been in intense talks on the declaration this week.

The BBC's Brussels reporter Adam Fleming said, from a first reading of the draft document that has just been published, it contained "something for everyone" but there was "lots" in it that would need to be negotiated.

The state of future relations are of particular concern to investors as they would influence how closely businesses can continue to trade across borders.

"It's my view that Parliament, the House of Commons, will stop no-deal", she said.

Mrs Merkel has dismissed Tory backbench demands for Britain to have the unilateral power to tear up a proposed "backstop" arrangement for the Irish border.

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