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Europe heads off Gibraltar spat to save Brexit summit

25 November, 2018, 19:16 | Author: Lawrence Cooper
  • Gibraltar deal clears way for Sunday Brexit summit

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has warned Britain can not expect to get a better Brexit deal if Parliament rejects the agreement hammered out by Theresa May.

"EU27 has endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relations", European Council President Donald Tusk announced on Twitter.

Spain wanted the future of Gibraltar, a territory on the southern tip of Spain that was ceded to Britain in 1713, to be an issue between Spain and Britain rather than Britain and the E.U. The agreement says that Madrid will be given a say on matters concerning Gibraltar when it comes to future trade deals.

However, even though European Union leaders approved the deal on Sunday, it needs to be passed by the United Kingdom parliament, where many lawmakers, including from Prime Minister Theresa May's own Conservative Party, vehemently oppose it.

According to the British press, as many as 90 lawmakers of May's own Conservative Party have said they plan to vote against it, alongside members of the opposition Labour Party.

"Europe and the United Kingdom have accepted the conditions imposed by Spain".

The prime minister arrived in Brussels as European Union leaders prepare to approve the UK's withdrawal agreement, which had been threatened by a diplomatic row with Madrid.

"The UK's position on the sovereignty of Gibraltar has not changed and will not change", she said.

If they reach a deal, will Brexit be over?

"In parliament and beyond it, I will make the case for this deal with all my heart and I look forward to that campaign".

The Spanish government, Sánchez said, aims to have "fruitful, close and ambitious" relationship with the territory in the future, that will favour both Gibraltar and the so-called "Field of Gibraltar".

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he thought May's chances of getting the agreement through Parliament were strong.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, right, greets British Prime Minister Theresa May at EU headquarters in Brussels, Nov. 24, 2018.

Gibraltar deal clears way for Sunday Brexit summit
EU Leaders Agree On Brexit Deal

"We defend national interests", he added, explaining that the Spanish government had a responsibility to defend the situation of the inhabitants of neighboring Campo de Gibraltar, which is on Spanish soil.

Gibraltar, a rocky outcrop home to a port and around 30,000 people, is a British territory claimed by Spain and a bone of contention as London negotiates a new relationship with Brussels after Brexit on March 29.

Asked whether a better agreement can be found, should the British Parliament reject it, Juncker said: "This is the deal".

The deal must still be ratified by the European Parliament, something that its president, Antonio Tajani, said would likely take place early in 2019. A fourth is that Britain will simply crash out of the bloc on March 29 without legal clarity.

Euroskeptics in May's Conservative Party hate the withdrawal agreement and are vowing to oppose it because it forces the U.K.to keep close to the EU's trade rules.

For once, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May was in complete agreement.

Parliament's vote could open the door to a "brighter future" or condemn the country to more division, she said.

The deal consists of a legally binding withdrawal agreement that runs more than 580 pages, and a 26-page political declaration on future relations.

"We have received sufficient guarantees to be able to reach a solution to a conflict that has lasted more than 300 years between the United Kingdom and Spain", Mr Sanchez told reporters in Madrid, adding that Spain would again table its joint sovereignty proposal in the second phase of Brexit negotiations.

Tajani said a "large majority" of European parliamentarians supported the deal.

The deal must still be endorsed by the British parliament and European Union parliament.

"Today has been a historic day", Merkel said after the meeting, a rare and unusual gathering of European leaders on a chilly Sunday morning in Brussels.

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