Spain to back Brexit deal

May faces hard sell back home with Par­lia­ment, na­tion

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - World & Nation - By Raf Casert, Jill Law­less and Joseph Wil­son As­so­ci­ated Press

BRUS­SELS — The Euro­pean Union re­moved the last ma­jor ob­sta­cle to seal­ing an agree­ment on Brexit af­ter Spain said it had reached a deal Satur­day with Bri­tain over Gi­bral­tar on the eve of an EU sum­mit.

Bri­tish Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May, who held prepara­tory talks with EU lead­ers Satur­day evening, will then have the mo­men­tous task of sell­ing the deal to a re­cal­ci­trant Bri­tish Par­lia­ment and a na­tion still split over whether the U.K. should leave the EU on March 29 and un­der what con­di­tions.

May vowed to cam­paign “with my heart and soul” to win Par­lia­ment’s back­ing for the deal.”

Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter Pe­dro Sanchez, who had threat­ened to op­pose the deal, an­nounced Satur­day that Madrid would sup­port the Brexit di­vorce deal af­ter the U.K., and the EU agreed to give Spain a say in the fu­ture of the dis­puted Bri­tish ter­ri­tory of Gi­bral­tar, which lies at the south­ern tip of the Mediter­ranean na­tion.

Spain wants the fu­ture of the tiny ter­ri­tory, which was ceded to Bri­tain in 1713 but is still claimed by Spain, to be a bi­lat­eral is­sue be­tween Madrid and Lon­don, not be­tween Bri­tain and the EU.

In a let­ter ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press, Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker and Euro­pean Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk as­sured Sanchez that Spain’s “prior agree­ment” would be needed on mat­ters con­cern­ing Gi­bral­tar.

May said Bri­tain had con­ceded noth­ing on the sovereignty of Gi­bral­tar.

“I will al­ways stand by Gi­bral­tar,” May said af­ter meet­ing with Juncker. “The U.K. po­si­tion on the sovereignty of Gi­bral­tar has not changed and will not change.”

The move should al­low EU lead­ers to sign off on the Brexit agree­ment be­tween Bri­tain and a spe­cial sum­mit Sun­day.

Sanchez said the agree­ment reached would give Spain “ab­so­lute guar­an­tees to re­solve the con­flict that has lasted for more than 300 years be­fore Spain and the U.K.”

May was on her way to Brus­sels when the deal came through and hopes to leave EU head­quar­ters 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.

Back home how­ever, May is un­der some in­tense pres­sure from pro-Brexit and pro-EU Bri­tish law­mak­ers, with large num­bers on both sides of the de­bate op­pos­ing the di­vorce deal and threat­en­ing to vote it down when it comes to Par­lia­ment next month.

The leader of North­ern Ire­land’ s Demo­cratic Union­ist Party, on which May re­lies to get her gov­ern­ment ma­jor­ity, on Satur­day re­jected her planned Brexit deal, ar­gu­ing it would drive a wedge be­tween North­ern Ire­land and the rest of the United King­dom.

Ar­lene Fos­ter said in Belfast that the deal agreed to by May is un­ac­cept­able and must be im­proved upon in the weeks ahead.

She said that the draft agree­ment raises con­sti­tu­tional ques­tions and in­stead in­sisted on “an out­come that does not leave North­ern Ire­land open to the per­ils of in­creased di­ver­gence away from the rest of the United King­dom.”

The DUP has said it may drop its back­ing of the gov­ern­ment be­cause of the Brexit plan.


EU’s Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker greets Bri­tain’s Theresa May, who must now sell a Brexit deal to Par­lia­ment.

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