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News > United Kingdom

UK-Spain Gibraltar Dispute Lords Over Brexit's EU Signoff

  • Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves the BBC in London, Britain on Nov. 23, 2018.

    Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May leaves the BBC in London, Britain on Nov. 23, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 24 November 2018

Representatives of the European Union country members are due to meet to sign off on the Brexit deal, but Spain's claims over Gibraltar could derail the plans.

The 27 member countries of the European Union (EU) are expected to approve the Brexit's draft agreement - a document which the British Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May has been working for since 2016 - in Brussels, Belgium Sunday. Before May's trip to the EU summit, however, the British prime minister now faces an unforeseen event.

EU and Britain Agree on Brexit Deal Draft 'In Principle'

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez stated that Spain could veto the Brexit draft agreement if the relationships among Britain, Spain and Gibraltar are not further clarified. The Spanish PM has requested changes to both the withdrawal treaty and the accompanying declaration on future ties.

As a result, an existing dispute involving the Peninsula of Gibraltar was, thus, been revived. The territory became a United Kingdom colony in the 18th Century, with Spain claiming sovereignty over the region since then. 

"Our position on Gibraltar and its sovereignty has not changed, and it is about respecting the wishes of the people of Gibraltar," the British PM responded, according to an El Mercurio report. 

Spain's reservations over Gibraltar is preventing the European Union clearing the last hurdle before signing off the Brexit deal. Spanish, British and Commission negotiators were still looking for a deal on Friday evening.

At Sunday's summit, the EU leaders are expected to endorse the treaty and approve the declaration by consensus, which means Spain could hold up the process.

For the approval of the Brexit agreement, however, only the vote of 20 EU member countries is required. 

"It is very unlikely that the European Commission will present an agreement without unanimity. It would be a tremendous political blow for the EU... which means that at the summit, on Sunday, they need to get a statement that clears Spain's doubts," Kenneth Armstrong, professor of European Law at the University of Cambridge, said according to El Mercurio.

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