Spain threatens to scuttle Brexit deal over Gibraltar veto

  • Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell warned that the draft deal does not spell out how the British territory should be handled
PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 November, 2018, 11:05pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2018, 3:18am

Spain warned on Monday it could yet derail the Brexit deal agreed between London and Brussels if it does not guarantee Madrid’s veto over Gibraltar’s future status.

Madrid has a long-standing claim on Gibraltar, which was ceded to the British in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is due to sign a treaty with European Union leaders to leave the bloc on Sunday, if Spain does not stand in the way.

But Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell warned on Monday after a meeting of EU ministers that the draft deal does not spell out how Gibraltar should be handled.

“Future negotiations on Gibraltar are separate negotiations and that is what needs to be made clear,” Borrell said. “Until it is clear … we will not be able to give our agreement.”

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According to Article 184 of the draft divorce deal, “the EU and the United Kingdom shall make every effort, in good faith and with full respect for their respective legal systems, to adopt the measures necessary to negotiate rapidly the agreements governing their future relationship”.

These agreements will be negotiated between Brexit day on March 29 and December 2020 – extendable once – and will enter into force at the end of the period.

But Spain wants to retain what it sees as its right to negotiate the future on Gibraltar with Britain on a bilateral basis, giving it an effective veto.

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Although the legal service of the EU Council has tried to reassure Spain the text does not preclude this, Madrid wants further clarification.

“Until we have the future declaration and we know what it says, whether we agree or not, we are not going to approve the withdrawal agreement either,” Borrell said.

Over the weekend, European diplomats said they did not expect Spain’s concerns to derail the agreement.

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