LONDON — The Spanish government will have the power to block any Brexit deal involving the British overseas territory of Gibraltar.
In a major diplomatic victory for Madrid, the EU’s draft guidelines for Brexit talks with Britain state that any divorce deal that applies to Gibraltar will require the approval of both the UK and Spanish governments.
The guidelines, set out in a letter drafted by European Council President Donald Tusk, say: “After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, no agreement between the EU and the UK may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the kingdom of Spain and the UK.”
This detail is key as it means Prime Minister Theresa May and acting Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy may have to hold bilateral discussions over the territory if any points of contention arise during Brexit negotiations.
Gibraltar is an island off the southern coast of Spain with a population of around 30,000. It has been a British territory for over three centuries and voted overwhelmingly to stay in the European Union, with 96% of voters backing Remain.
Speaking after the June Brexit vote, Spain’s acting foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo said he hoped that to seeing the “Spanish flag on the rock [Gilbraltar]” was “much closer” to becoming reality.
Both the British and Gibraltar governments rejected the both possibility of the island being shared between Britain and Spain and the unlikelier prospect of it returning to total Spanish control. Nevertheless, the EU’s proposal to give Spain the power to veto any Brexit deal that applies to the British territory represents a major diplomatic victory.
May’s government is set to have around 18 months to negotiate its exit from the European Union once talks get underway in a few weeks’ time. The EU has warned Britain that issues relating to Britain’s departure — such as the size of the divorce bill and residence rights of EU citizens — must be solved before a new trade deal can be discussed.
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