Spain’s prime minister has threatened to scupper Theresa May’s Brexit deal – with a warning that “our positions remain far away” on the issue of Gibraltar.
Pedro Sanchez spoke to his British counterpart on Wednesday night, and Mrs May subsequently said she was “confident that we’ll be able to agree a deal that delivers for the whole UK family, including Gibraltar”.
But in a late-night tweet on Thursday, Mr Sanchez appeared to disagree, writing: “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,” he said.
The EU’s 27 member states are set to vote on the deal published by Mrs May’s government last week in a special summit in Brussels on Sunday. Though Spain does not hold a veto, Madrid’s opposition would shatter the member states’ unanimity in negotiations, which has been a key asset for Brussels.
Gibraltar has been a major thorn in Anglo-Spanish relations for years. It voted to remain under British sovereignty by some 98% in a referendum held in 2002.
Spain want any further negotiations, or changes in the status of Gibraltar, to take place only following direct talks between London and Madrid.
The pushback came as Theresa May refused to say in a radio interview that she would resign if the deal was rejected by parliament, claiming “it’s not about me”. Yet it remains unclear how she might get it through parliament.
Yet, opposition to the deal comes not only from Northern Irish partners, but also from within her own party after it was revealed that as many as half of her MPs are prepared to vote against her deal, with some saying it amounts to a “total surrender to the European Union”.
Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, a dedicated Brexiteer, claimed that the 585-page deal would be even worse than staying in the European Union.
“I’m not going to advocate staying in the EU. “But, if you just presented me terms, this deal or EU membership, because we would effectively be bound by the same rules but without the control or voice over them, yes, I think this would be even worse than that,” he said.