SPANISH officials have reiterated they are still ready to ‘veto Brexit’ and will ‘stop the clock’ on negotiations this weekend if the UK does not change its Gibraltar deal.
Following a telephone conversation with Theresa May on Wednesday evening, Sanchez made it very clear in a late-night tweet last night that he is not backing down and will vote against the withdrawal deal.
Despite May saying she felt ‘confident that we’ll be able to agree a deal that delivers for the whole UK family, including Gibraltar’, Sanchez revealed, after landing in Cuba, that their ‘positions remain far away’.
After my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain far away. My Government will always defend the interests of Spain. If there are no changes, we will veto Brexit.
— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) November 22, 2018
Marco Aguiriano, Spain’s secretary of sate for the EU, has meanwhile accused the UK of ‘treachery’ and acting ‘under the cover of darkness’.
It comes after an original clause in the 585-page draft divorce bill said any post-Brexit agreement between the UK and the EU would apply to Gibraltar only if it was negotiated first with Madrid.
This clause has since disappeared from the 26-page Political Declaration published on Thursday, and has been replaced by an agreement that would ensure Gibraltar is covered by a future trade deal negotiated with Brussels.
Aguiriano said: “We’re worried because this paragraph, which was introduced almost treacherously and under the cover of darkness, could be used by the UK in the future to argue that a future agreement between the EU and the UK could be applied to Gibraltar without necessarily requiring the prior agreement of Spain.
“The minutes that run through the night and into the hours of the early morning really count as the European council anticipates finishing its business. Or the clock could even be stopped and another European council could be called.”
Sanchez and Aguiriano’s warnings come as EU diplomats are set to meet today to finalise the draft divorce bill between the UK and the bloc.
It is feared that the issue could be left unresolved until Sunday, when all EU member states will vote on the withdrawal agreement.
Spain does not have the power to ‘veto Brexit’ or the withdrawal agreement, which will be adopted by a qualified majority, rather than a unanimous vote.
However, the row raises the threat that sign off on the deal could be pushed back until the next European council in December, something EU diplomats have said would be ‘disastrous’ as all are aiming for consensus.