EU 'closer' to agreement with Spain over Brexit

2018-11-24 17:47

Brussels — The European Union appeared to be close to reaching an agreement Saturday with Spain to ease Madrid's concerns about the future of Gibraltar in a draft Brexit agreement, a key obstacle ahead of Sunday's EU summit.

EU spokesman Preben Aamann said on Twitter that after a phone conversation between Spanish Premier Pedro Sanchez and EU Council President Donald Tusk, "we are closer" to a deal ahead of the Brussels summit, when EU leaders are supposed to sign off a divorce agreement between Britain and the EU.

The tiny territory of Gibraltar — ceded to Britain in 1713 but still claimed by Spain — was the only dispute left hanging ahead of the summit and had turned into an obstinate stumbling block.

On Friday, Spain said it wouldn't back the divorce deal unless it gets a cast-iron guarantee of its say over Gibraltar's future.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, on her way to Brussels, hopes to leave Brussels on Sunday with a firm agreement on the withdrawal terms for Britain's departure from the EU on March 29, as well as a comprehensive negotiating text on how future relations should look like once both sides agree on a trade agreement.

May was expected to meet with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Council President Donald Tusk on Saturday evening.

Winning warm greetings from her 27 fellow leaders on Sunday might be much easier for May these days than getting such treatment from her Conservative party colleagues once she returns.

With the 585-page withdrawal agreement dealt with among negotiators and a vague statement on future relations both ready to be rubber stamped on Sunday, Spain belated demands on Gibraltar are taking center stage.

Portugal's foreign minister said Saturday he backed the Brexit deal, including Spain's request to have its say on the future of the disputed British territory of Gibraltar.

Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silva said the original Brexit guidelines laid out last year that included assurances to Spain that it could deal with London directly on the issue of Gibraltar were "wise".

France has equally referred to the strong wording in last year's guidelines as the basis for compromise.

At home in the U.K, May's plans for Brexit continued to run into trouble.

The deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland used a party conference speech to try to persuade her to change course Saturday

Nigel Dodds told the conference in Belfast her proposed Brexit agreement reached with the EU would leave the U.K. in a "pitiful and pathetic place."

The small DUP has an outsize role because its support has been crucial to May's shaky government, which doesn't enjoy a majority in Parliament.

The party is threatening to end its support over the Brexit plan favored by May. That would imperil May's already difficult challenge in winning parliamentary support for her proposal.

Read more on:    eu  |  brexit

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