Spanish president Pedro Sánchez has warned he might block the UK’s Brexit deal unless Spain obtain formal guarantees that Gibraltar’s status will depend on bilateral talks between the UK and Spain.
The warning emerges after the UK published a political declaration on future relations between the EU and the UK and signed the draft exit deal sparking discontent in the Spanish government, which considers that “the Spanish national interest is not enough defended nor clarified in any of the two documents.”
Sánchez reaffirmed on Thursday night previous threats to veto the UK’s Brexit deal unless Spain is guaranteed that Gibraltar will not automatically be covered by any future UK-EU free trade agreement, and that its inclusion would depend on bilateral talks between the UK and Spain.
“After my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain far away. My government will always defend the interest of Spain. If there are no changes we will veto Brexit,” Sánchez wrote on Twitter on Thursday night.
But Theresa May said on Thursday that she was “working constructively” with Madrid on the issue, and that “she was confident that we’ll be able to agree a deal that delivers for the whole UK family, including Gibraltar.”
The issue has come just a few days before a summit of EU leaders is set to take place on Sunday that is supposed to sign off UK’s exit treaty as well as the political declaration published on Thursday.
The declaration, – which does not contain any references to Gibraltar – as well as the withdrawal treaty need to count on the support of the EU 27 heads of government at the summit on Sunday. Although this can be achieved in theory by qualified majority, the political declaration needs total unanimity.
Sánchez, who expressed his concerns over the status of Gibraltar to both the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Council president Donald Tusk on Tuesday, said that although he obtained understanding from both leaders, this needed to be translated into written amendments in both documents capable to satisfy London and the remaining EU 27.
From the political declaration published earlier this week, was the article 184 of the exit’s treaty the one unleashing the discontent in the Spanish government since it implied that the status of Gibraltar could be a matter discussed between London and Brussels.
While Spain has never given up to claim the sovereignty of Gibraltar – a British colony since 1713 -, May recently underlined to the House of Commons that Gibraltar’s “British sovereignty will be protected” in any future discussions with the EU.