The governments of the 27 European Union member states have now had time to carry out their first examination of the draft agreement covering the terms of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the bloc and on which they will hold a summit on Sunday. For its part, Spain has made clear it is not in a position to sign off on the document given a lack of clarity on the situation of Gibraltar, the contested British Overseas Territory located in the south of Spain.
Spain’s foreign minister, Josep Borrell, on Monday called on the EU’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, to modify an article about the negotiations that will see the establishment of the future relationship between the UK and EU. “We want the interpretation to be clear in that text that the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU will not apply to Gibraltar,” Borrell said following a meeting in Brussels of EU ministers for European affairs.
ElPais reports that the part of the deal that has raised the ire of Spain is article 184, which establishes that there will be negotiations to define the future EU-UK relationship. According to diplomatic sources, Spain was unaware of this article until Wednesday night, when Barnier distributed the text among the 27 member states. In contrast, the Cabinet of British Prime Minister Theresa May had seen it, as had the first minister of Gibraltar, Fabián Picardo.
What’s more, the government’s legal services department wants to avoid at all costs that this provision covers Gibraltar. Borrell has called for a modification to the article so that it leaves no doubt that negotiations with Gibraltar are separate from the withdrawal agreement, and are subject to bilateral talks between London and Madrid.