Spain threatens to derail Brexit deal over Gibraltar

There is a new obstacle to Britain’s smooth exit from the European Union. Spain raised the issue of Gibraltar, a tiny British territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. Madrid asserts a claim to Gibraltar and seeks to resolve its centuries-old territorial dispute with London, RISS expert Igor Pshenichnikov said. Spain insists that the draft Brexit deal, which will be signed at the EU summit on November 25, must be modified to make clear that Gibraltar's future will rely solely on talks between Madrid and London.

Spain did not see a clear indication in the document that the talks between London and the EU on Brexit and the talks on Gibraltar's sovereignty are two different processes. Madrid is demanding clarification to Article 184 of the draft withdrawal agreement, which covers negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship regarding Gibraltar's sovereignty. Otherwise, Spain threatens to reject Brexit deal. This means that the whole procedure, which is scheduled for November 25, may be derailed, RISS expert pointed out.

Spain claims it was not aware of Article 184 in the draft Brexit deal that covers Gibraltar issue. In expert's opinion, Madrid has every reason to suspect the British in the creation of Article 184 with an unclear interpretation of Gibraltar's sovereignty. The British could hope that Article 184 would be approved at the summit along with the entire treaty. The EU Summit on 25 November is the last chance when the EU countries can use the Brexit veto. In that way, if the draft Brexit deal becomes an official document, it will be too late to turn back, as the document will enter the stage of ratification by the EU and the UK. It will be adopted if it is ratified by 20 of the 27 EU countries. Ratification is not necessary for Spain, RISS expert underscored.

The Spanish government is planning to offer London to have "dual sovereignty" over Gibraltar. It means the loss of Britain's sole control over the territory. Madrid recalled that in 2016 Gibraltar has already voted against Brexit (96%).

The EU negotiators are against of making any changes to the already agreed document. According to the expert, they fear that other countries, like Spain, may also demand to rewrite this agreement, which is a fragile balance of compromises and the object of criticism from all sides, especially within the UK.

If there are changes to the document on the part of Spain, it is likely that the negotiation process will never end. However, if at the EU Summit the parties come to a mutually acceptable decision, negotiations on future relations between the UK and the EU, which should begin immediately after Brexit deal on March 29, 2019, will be like a tunnel without light at the end, the analyst said.

Gibraltar Spain