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Spain still ready to vote against Brexit unless it sees changes on Gibraltar

After a phone conversation with Theresa May, PM Pedro Sánchez says positions remain distant

Brexit
The Rock of Gibraltar AP

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Thursday reiterated that Spain will vote against the Brexit deal on Sunday unless the text is altered to reflect Madrid’s position on Gibraltar.

“Following my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain distant. My Government will always defend the interests of Spain. If there are no changes, we will veto Brexit,” he tweeted as he landed in Havana for a two-day visit to Cuba.

There is a Spanish national interest that is not being sufficiently defended

Aide to PM Pedro Sánchez

The Spanish executive considers that the Wednesday telephone conversation between Sánchez and May did not have the desired effect: May did not accept Spain’s demand to have the last word on whether any future arrangements negotiated between Brussels and London will benefit Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory that was ceded to Great Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht.

Although the Brexit deal could still secure passage with a qualified majority despite opposition from Spain, sources within the delegation that has traveled to Cuba with Sánchez said it would be “unthinkable” for the withdrawal agreement to go ahead “without the consensus of the 27.” They also warned that “if the political declaration is not unanimous, there is no declaration,” alluding to a draft text on the future relationship that will also be voted on Sunday.

“There is a Spanish national interest that is not being sufficiently defended,” said the same sources.

My Government will always defend the interests of Spain. If there are no changes, we will veto Brexit

PM Pedro Sánchez

On Thursday, May said in the House of Commons that “British sovereignty over Gibraltar will be protected.” She mentioned the telephone conversation, underscoring that “I was absolutely clear with him.”

May also underscored the cooperation that has led to a preliminary agreement on memorandums of understanding on a set of issues of particular concern to the communities that live in and around Gibraltar, including taxation and cross-border workers.

Marco Aguiriano, Spain’s secretary of state for the EU, has voiced concern over a clause of the Withdrawal Agreement (known as Article 184) that he said has been introduced “under the cover of darkness.” Spain believes that this clause could be used to include Gibraltar as a beneficiary of any future trade arrangements between the EU and UK, without requiring Spain’s prior approval.

Aguiriano said the European Commission and Council’s legal services have provided verbal assurances that Article 184 does not undermine Spain’s position regarding Gibraltar. “This requires clarification. If they tell us there is no risk, let them simply put in down in writing,” he said, suggesting that Spain might accept an addendum to the main text.

The other option would be to delay approval of the deals by voting against them on Sunday. “It is possible to stop the clock and call a new summit,” warned Aguiriano.

English version by Susana Urra.

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