Spain’s Brexit deal blow to May Sludge hampers body recovery
Spanish Prime Minister is ready to thwart British PM’s hopes of a deal with the EU
SPAIN was standing between Theresa May and a Brexit deal as it threatened to derail an EU summit today if it does not get new assurances on having a say in the future of Gibraltar.
As talks among Spanish, British and EU officials continued yesterday, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sanchez said he was ready to thwart his British counterpart May’s hopes of seeing EU leaders sign off on promises of close ties with London after Britain leaves the bloc in March if he did not get his way.
EU diplomats and officials said there was still no clear breakthrough yesterday morning, hours before some of the other leaders must set off for Brussels ahead of today’s breakfast summit – few will be happy if plans change.
Brussels diplomats and representatives of other governments across Europe said they did not believe Madrid would upset the careful choreography of today’s summitry when May and her 27 EU peers will fly in for a couple of hours in the morning.
But they also heard strong words from Spanish ministers that left them unwilling to call Sanchez’s bluff without further talks.
On a visit to Cuba, Sanchez said he had yet to receive assurances that any future decisions on Gibraltar would be decided in direct talks between London and Madrid.
“The guarantees are still not enough, and Spain maintains its veto to Brexit. If there is a deal, then it will be lifted,” he said when it was already late on Friday in Europe. “If there is no deal, the European Council will most likely not take place.”
Spain can expect its European allies to swing more clearly behind its 300-year-old claims to sovereignty over “The Rock”, a British naval base on its southern coast that is home to some 30 000 people whose economy faces major questions after Brexit.
But demands that extensive treaty documentation recently agreed between Brussels and London be tweaked to give Spain a bigger say over its implementation in regard to Gibraltar face resistance from Britain and EU allies who are wary that the whole edifice of the long-negotiated deal might unravel.
Diplomats said there was no doubting the passion behind the Spanish arguments when advisers to the 27 EU leaders met in Brussels on Friday to prepare the summit: “The Spanish are very proud people and this is absolutely important for them,” one participant in the talks told Reuters.
“We have to have a solution. I am quite sure we will have one.”
Some in Brussels stress that Sanchez is fighting a regional election in Andalusia, the province that abuts Gibraltar, next weekend and may want to play up the issue for home consumption.
For Sanchez to force the cancellation of the summit, or drag it out beyond the morning, would incur the wrath of his peers.
May was due to meet EU chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday, and diplomats say that should be the moment they confirm that the Gibraltar issue is settled. May will then meet summit chair Donald Tusk.
In Germany, a government spokesperson was confident a solution would be found in time for today’s summit. | THE rains that have drenched northern California for days were forecast to diminish yesterday, giving way to clear skies as teams continue their search for the remains of victims of the deadliest wildfire in the state’s history.
The so-called Camp Fire all but obliterated the town of Paradise, 280km north-east of San Francisco, on November 8, killing 84 people and destroying 14 000 homes.
About 475 people from Paradise and surrounding communities remain unaccounted for, according to a list from the Butte County sheriff’s office.
Drone footage (https:// buttecountyrecovers.org/Maps) provided by Paradise to help residents see if their homes survived showed how the fire leapt from house to house.
The 5cm-8cm of rain that fell in the area in the last few days turned ash from the thousands of homes that were destroyed into slurry, complicating the work of finding bodies reduced to bone fragments.
Butte County sheriff Kory Honea has warned that remains of victims may be “very small bone fragments”, and some may never be found.
Firefighting teams had contained 95% of the blaze, which torched an area five times the size of San Francisco, said Andrew Freeborn, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Investigators have yet to determine the cause.
Thousands forced to flee Paradise spent Thanksgiving in warehouses in nearby Chico, or with friends or relatives in nearby towns. | PROTESTERS wearing yellow vests, a symbol of a French drivers’ protest against higher fuel prices, clash with riot police on the Champs-Élysées in Paris, France. |