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

The Sunday Independent - - WORLD - Reuters BENOIT TESSIER Reuters

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. |

Reuters

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