The Latest: Brexit: UK gives consent to Spain over Gibraltar
LONDON (AP) — The Latest on Britain’s exit from the European Union (all times local):
Spain’s junior minister for the European Union says British authorities have consented to Spanish demands granting Madrid prior approval on matters relating to Gibraltar.
Luis Marco Aguiriano says “we have a promise, a commitment, from the British government saying they are ready to ... guarantee that they will go along with the clarification we have requested.”
Spain has threatened to block a Brexit agreement unless its demands on Gibraltar are accepted.
Britain says the withdrawal agreement won’t be changed but has not ruled out putting something in writing to allay Spain’s fears.
Spanish private news agency Europa Press says Aguiriano told reporters in Brussels on Friday he can’t announce yet that Spain is dropping its veto threat because he hasn’t yet seen a written version of the British promise.
He says Spain wants London to make the written promise public. After that, it will have to be endorsed by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
Britain says the withdrawal agreement won’t be changed, but has not ruled out putting something in writing to allay Spain’s fears.
A Spanish government spokeswoman says Spain won’t settle for anything less than veto power over any issue regarding Gibraltar in negotiations about Britain’s departure from the European Union.
Isabel Celaa said Friday that prior approval on matters involving Gibraltar is “decisive” for Madrid to approve the Brexit agreement on future U.K.-EU relations.
She said after a weekly Cabinet meeting that Spain requires an “absolute guarantee” that any future agreement between the EU and the U.K. in matters regarding Gibraltar “will require the prior agreement of Spain.”
Spain has never relinquished its claim to jurisdiction over the British territory of 32,000 people on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has refused to say whether she will resign if her Brexit deal with the European Union is rejected by Parliament.
The agreement has drawn strong criticism from lawmakers in May’s own Conservative Party as well as from opposition parties, and she faces a struggle to get Parliament to approve it.
Asked on a radio phone-in whether she would quit if the deal failed, May said: “This isn’t about me.”
She said: “I’m not thinking about me. I’m thinking about getting a deal through that delivers for this country.”
EU leaders are due to meet Sunday to sign off on the deal.
May said that once that happens she plans to tour Britain explaining the benefits of the agreement.
A Spanish government official says the spat over Gibraltar can be resolved by modifying a single clause in the United Kingdom’s divorce agreement from the European Union.
Spain’s junior minister for the EU, Luis Marco Aguiriano, said Friday that officials could tweak article 184 to make it clear that future relations between the EU and Gibraltar “will be negotiated with the U.K. with Spain’s prior consent.”
He said in an interview with Spain’s Onda Cero radio station that officials in Brussels were working on options to accommodate Spain’s concerns about Gibraltar. He estimated there was a 60 percent chance of success.
Madrid has never dropped its claim of sovereignty over the rocky outcrop at the tip of the Iberian Peninsula, which was ceded to Britain just over 300 years ago.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman says Germany believes that outstanding questions about the Brexit deal will be cleared up in time for a special European Union summit to go ahead on Sunday.
Spain has warned that it will oppose a declaration on future relations with Britain if it isn’t guaranteed a say over the future of Gibraltar, though it doesn’t have a veto on the actual withdrawal agreement.
Asked Friday whether it’s possible that the summit might not go ahead, Merkel spokesman Steffen Seibert said: “We assume that open questions can be cleared up by Sunday. That is being worked on intensively, so the chancellor is preparing for the trip to Brussels.”
Germany’s finance minister says Berlin still hopes for a regulated British exit from the European Union but that the country is also prepared for the possibility of a Brexit without a negotiated deal.
Olaf Scholz, who is also the vice chancellor, was quoted by the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper Friday as saying that an unregulated Brexit would be bad for everyone, and hit the British the worst.
But, he says, “we are preparing ourselves very carefully for both variants, the controlled and the uncontrolled Brexit. Both present us with challenges, but we can and will manage them.”
European Union diplomats are meeting to finalize the draft divorce agreement between Britain and the bloc, amid a warning from Spain that it will oppose the deal if it isn’t guaranteed a say over the future of Gibraltar.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted that Britain and Spain “remain far away” on the issue and “if there are no changes, we will veto Brexit.”
Spain wants the future of the tiny British territory at the tip of the Iberian Peninsula to be a bilateral issue between Madrid and London.
Spain doesn’t have a veto on the withdrawal agreement, which does not have to be approved unanimously. But it could hold up a future free-trade deal between Britain and the EU, which would require approval of all 27 EU nations.