Gi­bral­tar deal clears way for Sun­day Brexit sum­mit

Stabroek News Sunday - - WORLD NEWS -

BRUS­SELS, (Reuters) - Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May will seal a Brexit pack­age deal with Euro­pean Union lead­ers in Brus­sels to­day after an agree­ment to re­as­sure Madrid on a fu­ture say on Gi­bral­tar lifted a threat of a Span­ish veto.

The 27 EU na­tional lead­ers will gather for an hour or so to for­mally en­dorse both a de­tailed treaty set­ting out the terms on which Bri­tain will leave in an or­derly man­ner on March 29 and a dec­la­ra­tion out­lin­ing how Bri­tain can keep close to its big­gest mar­ket by fol­low­ing many EU rules after a 2-4-year tran­si­tion.

They will then meet May briefly as she seeks mo­men­tum to get the pack­age through the Bri­tish par­lia­ment in the com­ing weeks in the teeth of fierce op­po­si­tion from many of her own al­lies.

The Demo­cratic Union­ist Party, whose votes from North­ern Ire­land have helped May to gov­ern since she lost her ma­jor­ity in a mis­judged snap elec­tion last year, said it would try to block a Brexit deal it called “piti­ful” - partly be­cause it binds Lon­don to many EU rules it will no longer help set and partly as the DUP fears it could weaken the prov­ince’s ties to Bri­tain.

No one knows what will hap­pen if par­lia­ment re­jects May’s plan, which she and EU lead­ers say is the best deal avail­able.

Wran­gling over how to keep open trou­bled North­ern Ire­land’s land bor­der with the EU with­out cre­at­ing dis­rup­tive cus­toms bar­ri­ers with the Ir­ish Repub­lic dogged much of the 18 months of talks be­fore ac­cords were struck this month. An­other relic of the im­pe­rial past, Bri­tain’s 300-year-old naval base on Spain’s south­ern coast, threat­ened to de­rail plans at the last minute.

Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter Pe­dro Sanchez threat­ened to boy­cott Sun­day’s meet­ing if he did not get amend­ments to the deal to en­sure Madrid gets a say in Gi­bral­tar’s fu­ture ties with the EU.

After of­fi­cials wran­gled through the night, he an­nounced yes­ter­day af­ter­noon that he had such writ­ten pledges. Brus­sels of­fi­cials said those es­sen­tially con­firmed what most EU lead­ers had al­ready un­der­stood - that Spain must have a bind­ing say over how any fu­ture EU-UK trade pact might af­fect Gi­bral­tar.

May will meet Sanchez for face-to-face talks dur­ing the sum­mit, of­fi­cials said.

May made a dra­matic di­rect ap­peal to the Bri­tish pub­lic to sup­port her deal.

In an open let­ter to the na­tion, May said she would cam­paign “heart and soul” to get her Brexit deal through Bri­tain’s par­lia­ment.

“It will be a deal that is in our na­tional in­ter­est – one that works for our whole coun­try and all of our peo­ple, whether you voted “Leave” or “Re­main,” she said.

Sun­day news­pa­pers said dif­fer­ent fac­tions in her own party were pre­par­ing al­ter­na­tive Brexit plans to keep Bri­tain closer to the EU should her deal fail as most ex­pect.

That in­cluded a plan be­ing hatched by close al­lies such as finance min­is­ter Philip Ham­mond and work and pen­sions min­is­ter Am­ber Rudd, re­ported The Sun­day Times with­out cit­ing sources.

The Sun­day Tele­graph said there were plans on both sides of the English Chan­nel for a “Plan B”. One such was a Nor­waystyle re­la­tion­ship with Brus­sels, un­der which Bri­tain would have a more cer­tain “exit mech­a­nism” from the EU’s rules but would be un­able to end the free move­ment of work­ers from the bloc - the most po­lit­i­cally con­tentious el­e­ment of Brexit.

In her let­ter, May urged Bri­tons to start a new era of po­lit­i­cal unity when it leaves the EU on March 29, 2019 and set aside the bit­ter fight­ing pro­voked by Brexit.

“I want that to be a mo­ment of re­newal and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion for our whole coun­try. It must mark the point when we put aside the la­bels of “Leave” and “Re­main” for good and we come to­gether again as one peo­ple,” she said.

“Par­lia­ment will have the chance to do that in a few weeks’ time when it has a mean­ing­ful vote on the deal.”

Theresa May

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