Spain will vote against the European Union’s draft Brexit agreement unless the text clarifies its position on Gibraltar and the negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the European Union, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said today.
Spain wants a veto on Gibraltar’s inclusion in any deal on the future relationship, the next phase of the Brexit negotiations once the draft Withdrawal Agreement is agreed.
At issue is Article 184 of the draft Withdrawal Agreement, which Spain claims was “introduced overnight” into the text and sent to Prime Minister Theresa May by EU negotiators without Madrid’s knowledge.
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.”
Madrid is concerned it would in effect extend any deal on the future agreement to Gibraltar without Spain first having a say.
“In truth, we’re the ones who are surprised,” Mr Sanchez said during a debate in a conference organised by The Economist in Madrid.
Mr Sanchez said his government had taken a “productive and pro-European” stance in the Brexit process during talks with EU partners.
But he said that 72 hours ago, Spain had discovered that the Withdrawal Agreement and the political declaration on the future relations did not make clear Spain’s position on Gibraltar.
“This is fundamental for us from the point of view of identity, of the country.”
“Gibraltar is not part of the United Kingdom, it is represented by the United Kingdom but it is not part of it.”
“As a country, we cannot accept that whatever happens with Gibraltar in the future will depend on a negotiation between the United Kingdom and the European Union.”
“It will have to be something that is defined, negotiated and agreed by the United Kingdom and Spain.”
“As of 72 hours ago, that is not guaranteed either in the Withdrawal Agreement or in the future declaration.”
“As such, as it stands right now, I’m afraid to say that without changes Spain, a pro-European government, will vote no to Brexit on these terms.”
“And if this pro-European government finds itself in this situation, it’s because someone in Brussels has not done their job properly.”
On Monday, the UK Government made clear that it would include Gibraltar in its negotiations for a future relationship with the EU.
“The draft withdrawal agreement agreed last week covers Gibraltar,” said a spokesman for Prime Minister Theresa May.
“The PM has been clear that we will not exclude Gibraltar and the other overseas territories and the crown dependences from our negotiations on the future relationship.”
“We will get a deal that works for the whole UK family.”
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said Spain’s “eleventh hour tactics” were at odds with the constructive approach taken by all sides in the process so far.
He said the language of vetoes “should be a thing of the past” and that Spain’s latest stance would do little to foster mutual confidence and trust going forward.
“The language of vetoes has no place in the modern Europe of today at a time when both the United Kingdom and Gibraltar are trying to build a new positive future relationship with the EU.”