Spanish government officials want to start negotiating a trade deal with the UK to take effect after Brexit, going against the official position of key negotiators in Brussels.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Spain’s foreign minister Alfonso Dastis said that he believes starting trade talks before the full terms of Brexit are agreed would be beneficial to all involved in Britain’s divorce from the EU.
“It would actually be good, while we speak about the separation, to also define where we want to be in terms of a new framework [for EU-UK relations],” Dastis told the FT.
“We are interested in getting a result that is good for both sides. We won’t give up that interest for the sake of strict procedural requirements.”
Dastis position goes against the beliefs of many of Brussels’ key officials tasked with negotiating Brexit. Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, has consistently maintained that both sides must agree the full terms of the UK’s separation before they can start discussing a future trade deal.
Spain’s foreign minister was also clear that he doesn’t want to “punish” the UK for leaving the EU, something many have suggested could occur in negotiations.
“We don’t see this as a battle in which one side has to come out as the victor and the other as the vanquished,” he told the FT.
“I don’t see any intention to be punitive.”
“Our priority is to preserve the unity of the EU,” Dastis continued, and to preserve the fundamental principles of the European project.”
“At the same time, we want to preserve a close relationship with the UK. We think that is possible.”
The Spanish minister’s comments come at the same time as Prime Minister Theresa May is about to embark on a visit to meet newly elected US President Donald Trump for the first time, and to discuss a post-Brexit trade deal.
Both parties are keen to strike a deal as quickly as possible, with one reporting suggesting Trump aides have told May that the two countries could “do a trade deal in a week,” although that seems incredibly unlikely given the enormous complexities of agreeing international trade agreements.