Monday 23 September 2019

Could row with Spain scupper Brexit talks?

The Rock of Gibraltar viewed from the departure lounge of Gibraltar Airport (Yui Mok/PA)
The Rock of Gibraltar viewed from the departure lounge of Gibraltar Airport (Yui Mok/PA)
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

What is the relationship between Gibraltar, Britain and Spain?

Gibraltar, or 'The Rock' as it is commonly known, has been a British territory since 1713. Its sovereignty is a bone of contention in Spain but in 2002 residents voted overwhelming to remain a British territory. However, in the wake of the Brexit vote, Spain saw an opportunity to regain some influence over Gibraltar. It has around 30,000 inhabitants, 96pc of whom voted Remain.

Why has Gibraltar suddenly become an issue in the Brexit talks?

The Spanish government feels the future of Gibraltar was ignored in the final Withdrawal Agreement while all the focus was placed on resolving the Irish question. The EU guidelines for the negotiations said no agreement with the UK "may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the UK". However, the draft text makes no mention of Gibraltar or the need for Spanish approval.

Is this a threat to the deal?

It's not ideal, but is unlikely to derail tomorrow's EU summit. Tánaiste Simon Coveney has suggested a letter of clarification outlining the terms of engagement between the UK and Spain on Gibraltar could be issued.

Could Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez threaten to veto the deal?

In reality, he doesn't have a veto. While the EU would like all 27 members to sign up to the deal, it only needs 20.

Irish Independent

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