MADRID/LONDON: Spain’s prime minister warned on Tuesday that Madrid would vote against the Brexit deal agreed between London and Brussels if it does not guarantee Madrid’s veto over Gibraltar’s future status. Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May is due to sign a treaty with EU leaders to leave the bloc on Sunday, but Spain’s warning over the contested British territory on Spain’s southern tip may add another complication. “As a country, we can’t conceive that what will happen with the future of Gibraltar will depend on a negotiation between Britain and the European Union,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told a business conference in Madrid on Tuesday.
“As a consequence, today, I regret to say that a pro-European government like Spain’s would vote no to Brexit unless there are changes.”
According to Article 184 of the draft Brexit 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.
Although the legal service of the EU Council has tried to reassure Spain that the text does not preclude this, Madrid is seeking further clarification.
Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell had already warned on Monday after a meeting of EU ministers that the draft deal does not spell out how Gibraltar should be handled.
“Until it is clear… we will not be able to give our agreement,” he said.
Madrid has a long-standing claim on Gibraltar, which was ceded to the British crown in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.
PRESSURE ON MAY: Theresa May was to gather her new-look cabinet on Tuesday ahead of talks in Brussels on post-Brexit ties with the EU, facing fresh pressure from her Northern Irish allies.
The Conservative leader holds her first cabinet meeting since two ministers quit last week over a divorce deal with the European Union, raising fears the government might collapse.
Downing Street said May will travel to Brussels on Wednesday for talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to discuss an outline agreement on future UK-EU trade ties after Brexit. — AFP