THE Spanish prime minister has threatened to reject the Brexit withdrawal agreement unless the European Union hands Madrid a guaranteed veto over the future of Gibraltar in any trade deal between Britain and Europe.
Brexit negotiations between European capitals and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier hit a stumbling block over the political declaration, which sets out Britain’s future relationship with Brussels. Pedro Sanchez, the Spanish prime minister, said his government would sink the agreement at a special summit on Sunday unless he is handed a legal promise that no future UK-EU trade or security deals will apply to Gibraltar without Spain’s consent. He said: “In the past 72 hours, none of the documents has clarified something which is fundamental for us – Gibraltar is not part of the UK.
“As a country, we cannot assume what is going to happen in the future with regard to Gibraltar they are going to negotiate between the UK and the EU.
“As it stands, the Spanish government will vote against the Brexit deal.”
Madrid has raised opposition to two clauses in the 585-page withdrawal agreement, agreed by Theresa May last week, during several crunch Brexit meetings of the EU27 in Brussels.
Josep Borrell, the Spanish foreign minister, who visit the Belgian capital for talks on Monday, said: “Negotiations between the UK and the EU do not apply to Gibraltar.
“This is what must be made clear. Until we have the future declaration and we know what it says, whether we agree with it or not, we are not going to approve the withdrawal agreement.”
Spain has also placed demands for an added commitment in the 20-page “political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship,” which allows Madrid a veto over whether future trade and security treaties will apply to Gibraltar.
“In these negotiations, things always come up at the last moment and that is what we are going to see. I cannot say that things are fixed 100 percent,” Mr Borrell added.
“Negotiations may not be so peaceful as they seem. In Europe, it is not over until it’s over. You have always got to be prepared for a surprise at the last minute.”
Madrid has objected to Article 184 of the withdrawal agreement, which states that the United Kingdom and EU will use the transition period to “use their best endeavours to negotiate expeditiously the agreements governing their future relationship referred to in the political declaration”.
Spain believes this clashes with Article 3 in the draft treaty, which sets out the territorial scope of the negotiations will cover Gibraltar and other British overseas territories.