Spanish support for Brexit in jeopardy over Gibraltar

Spanish support for Brexit
© iStock/MarioGuti

Spain’s EU Secretary has threatened to withdraw Spanish support for Brexit over altered language pertaining to Gibraltar in Theresa May’s much-maligned withdrawal agreement.

Luis Marco Aguiriano said language in the draft agreement had been changed “maliciously and under cover of darkness” and demanded clarification of the deal’s terms with regard to the territory of Gibraltar. Aguiriano said that unless the withdrawal agreement was amended to make clear that the terms of Gibraltar’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU must be negotiated separately to Britain’s future relationship with the union, he would “veto Brexit”. Spanish support for Brexit, along with the support of the other 26 Member States, would be essential to the progression of trade deals between the UK and the EU once the UK has left the union.

Diplomats in the EU insist that neither the withdrawal agreement nor its attendant Political Declaration should be renegotiated or edited at this stage. Aguinario claims that Article 184 of the agreement, the section which covers the future of Gibraltar, was added to the document surreptitiously and at the last minute; and that Spanish foreign affairs officials only learned about its existence when it was published on Wednesday night. He alleges it was agreed at the beginning of negotiations between the UK and the EU that Spanish support for Brexit would be contingent on the deal’s position on Gibraltar.

After consulting with legal experts, Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell concluded that both the withdrawal agreement and the Political Declaration must clarify the separate status of Gibraltar negotiations. EU leaders will meet in Brussels this Sunday to approve the terms of the withdrawal agreement; if Spanish support for Brexit is withdrawn, the process of Britain’s leaving the EU may be delayed while details are hammered out. No formal vote is expected at this stage, but until all 27 Member States approve the withdrawal agreement, Brexit remains in flux.

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