Why Spain is unhappy about the Brexit deal for Gibraltar

Angus Walker

Former ITV News Correspondent

The Brexit package of deals is still subject to endorsement and approval by the member states and there are glaring issues yet to be resolved.

Late last night the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, tweeted: “After my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain far away. My Government will always defend the interests of Spain. If there are no changes, we will veto Brexit.”

He is referring to the phone call with Theresa May he had on Wednesday night. The prime minister was “encouraged” to make that call by the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker after she met him in Brussels.

On Thursday Theresa May said: “Last night I spoke to the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, and I am confident that on Sunday we will be able to agree a deal that delivers for the whole UK family, including Gibraltar.”

To be clear, the Spanish don’t have a veto. Spain’s foreign minister Josep Borrell said that himself earlier this week. There’s no actual vote at Sunday’s summit which is designed to rubber stamp the Brexit withdrawal package.

What the EU Council does need at this meeting is consensus and that will be judged by the president, Donald Tusk. Spain not giving consent would be a ‘political veto’ and a display of disunity.

Yesterday, an EU Commission spokesman said: “I can confirm the question of Gibraltar and the issues of fisheries still need to be dealt with. The ball is now in the member state’s courts."

To be clear, Spain’s complaint is about an article in the Withdrawal Agreement, the 585-page legal document.

The Spanish accuse Britain of sneaking in Article 184, which says the UK and EU will work with best endeavour to get a future trade deal. Spain thinks that ignores the need for any deal on Gibraltar being subject to bi-lateral agreement between Spain and the UK.

Spain is unhappy about the arrangements for Gibraltar. Credit: PA

The Spanish EU Minister accused the British of using “treachery and the cover of darkness” to get that article into the Agreement behind their backs.

Despite the diplomatic pressure from Germany and the threat of Angela Merkel not turning up, Spain is still unhappy over Gibraltar.

Yesterday in the Spanish parliament, the EU Minister Marco Aguiriano, said that negotiations are continuing. He repeated that Spain won’t give its consent to the Brexit agreement on Sunday if they don’t receive guarantees that any agreement between UK and EU won’t apply to Gibraltar unless Spain gives its consent. He spoke of the possibility of "stopping the clock", convening another European Council or getting a written legal guarantee from the EU Council.

The deals are done but it’s not just the Brexiters who are unhappy with the text.