Spain Threatens to Veto EU – UK Brexit Deal over Gibraltar’s Status
Madrid wants guarantees that the future status of Gibraltar will be subject solely to bilateral talks with London.
Spain has refused to endorse the present draft of the Brexit deal between the European Union and the United Kingdom with demands that the status of the British territory of Gibraltar be excluded from it.
What is in essence a veto threat has come from Spain after the 27 EU member states have been able to examine for the first time the draft Brexit agreement.
Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell told the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier on Monday that the Iberian country demanded greater clarity on the situation of Gibraltar.
The 2.3-square-mile territory of Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht, and has been contested ever since.
“We want the interpretation to be clear in that text that the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU will not apply to Gibraltar,” Borrell said following a meeting in Brussels of EU ministers for European affairs, as cited by El Pais.
“[Spain demands] that what is being negotiated has a territorial scope that does not include Gibraltar,” Borrell added.
“That the future negotiations on Gibraltar are separate. And that is what has to be made clear,” he stated.
Madrid is reportedly agitated over Article 184 of the Brexit treaty which stipulates that future negotiations are to define the future relationship of the EU and the UK.
The Spanish government was unaware of the article in question until Wednesday night when Barnier provided the draft Brexit deal to the EU27 member states, diplomatic sources are quoted as saying.
However, the Cabinet of UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Gibraltar’s First Minister Gabian Picardo had seen the text beforehand.
Madrid now demands “clarification”, namely, that Article 184 is modified to leave no doubt whatsoever that negotiations with Gibraltar are separate from the Brexit deal, and are subject solely to bilateral talks between London and Madrid.
The draft Brexit withdrawal agreement does contain a protocol of six articles stipulating the establishment of a brand new cooperation framework between Spain and the UK to regulate the relations between Gibraltar and the surrounding Spanish territory known as Campo de Gibraltar.
Under it, three Spanish-British committees are to address the issues of the rights of cross-border workers, the fight against smuggling, environmental protection, and cooperation on law enforcement and border control.
Many EU governments have reportedly agreed that Spain’s concerns over Gibraltar and the Brexit deal should be heeded.
However, several EU member states and Barnier’s negotiating team oppose making changes to the embattled withdrawal agreement with the UK. A solution might be reached through an annex to the Brexit deal.
In October, UK leader Theresa May told the British Parliament that the issue of the Gibraltar’s future status had been settled in the Brexit talks alongside the status of the UK military bases in Cyprus, while the Irish border issue remained the main bone of contention as far as EU – UK borders were concerned.
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