European Union negotiators met Friday to finalize the draft withdrawal treaty between Britain and the bloc, before Sunday’s summit to endorse the Brexit deal, but at the 11th hour Spain demanded guarantees over the future of Gibraltar.
Spain has required changes to the agreement and an accompanying declaration on a new EU-Britain relationship to clarify that the future of Gibraltar, ceded to Britain in 1713 but still claimed by Spain, be decided in direct talks between Madrid and London.
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.”
Chief British Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo criticized Spain’s demand on a written guarantee, saying “Gibraltar has demonstrated that we actually want a direct engagement with Spain on issues.”
Picardo told the BBC that “Spain is the physical and geographical gateway to Europe for Gibraltar,” adding that “there is absolutely no need for us to be vetoed into being brought to the table.”
Spain does not have veto power on the Brexit agreement, which does not have to be approved unanimously, but it would prevent any free-trade deal between Britain and the European Union, which would require the approval of all 27 EU member states.
The Brexit package is also facing strong opposition in the British parliament, which must vote in favor for it to take effect. Otherwise, Britain would leave the bloc on March 29, 2019, without an agreement to mitigate economic disruption.