Gi­bral­tar deal ends ob­sta­cle to Brexit ac­cord

The Bradenton Herald (Sunday) - - Nation & World - BY RAF CASERT, JILL LAW­LESS AND JOSEPH WIL­SON

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 ar­rived in Brus­sels Satur­day evening for prepara­tory talks with EU lead­ers, will then have the mo­men­tous task of sell­ing the deal to a re­cal­ci­trant British Par­lia­ment and a na­tion still fun­da­men­tally split over whether the U.K. should leave the EU on March 29 and un­der what con­di­tions.

Span­ish Prime Min­is­ter Pe­dro Sánchez 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 terri- tory 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 Sánchez that Spain’s “prior agree­ment” would be needed on mat­ters con­cern­ing Gi­bral­tar.

“Europe and the United King­dom have ac­cepted the con­di­tions im­posed by Spain,” Sánchez said. “There­fore, as a con­se­quence of this, Spain will lift its veto and to­mor­row will vote in fa­vor of Brexit.”

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 speed­ily to sign off on the Brexit agree­ment be­tween Bri­tain and a spe­cial sum­mit Sun­day morn­ing.

Sánchez 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.

May was to have din­ner with 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 col­leagues in govern­ment and Par­lia­ment once she re­turns. May is un­der 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.

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