Spain issues Gibraltar warning as Boris’ Brexit playbook sounds alarm on the continent

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Negotiations between the UK and the European Union have become gridlocked with neither side able to come to any agreement. Boris Johnson has also come under fire this week over plans to override aspects of the withdrawal agreement which he signed with Brussels.

EU officials have argued violating the terms of the agreement would “break international law, undermine trust and put at risk the ongoing future relationship negotiations”.

Under the terms of the UK’s EU withdrawal agreement, Spain has a veto over Gibraltar benefiting from any future trade and security agreement between the Government and Brussels.

Mr Johnson has promised the transition period will end on December 31 with or without a deal in place.

Now, Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya has said the issue regarding Gibraltar would be better handled with a deal in place.

Gibraltar is a British overseas territory but is also the subject of a territorial claim by Spain.

It was a subject of contention during the divorce talks where the Spanish government was accused of using Brexit to snatch back the territory.

During a conversation with former European Commissioner Peter Mandelson, Ms Laya said: “Regarding Gibraltar and the UK, it’s better to negotiate than to leave without an agreement.”

She warned if the UK deviates from the agreement, it would damage the trust in the country.

The Spanish Foreign Minister said the treaty is “the result of an exercise between the UK and the EU”.

Ms Laya added: “Trust is an important asset in international relations.

“I hope that the British Government understands this and we can close this chapter.”

Over the weekend, Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo insisted the Rock could “easily” strike a deal with the EU if David Frost and Michel Barnier fail to reach an agreement.

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Mr Picardo told the Gibraltar Chronicle: “The legalities are easy. 

“The law is there to create the agreement that each relevant party wishes and the existing treaty obligations permit.

“There is nothing insurmountable for Gibraltar in that respect and in keeping with our red lines.

“But if we are in that territory, what is complex to start with will become devilishly difficult in some respects.”

Mr Picardo also rejected claims Spain was trying to drive a wedge between the Rock and the UK.

He continued: “It may be surprising for us to see Spain engage positively with us, but we should not be afraid of that, although we need to be totally vigilant to ensure that there is nothing in the detail of the deal that can be negative for us.”

Tory MP Andrew Rosindell, who is chairman of the British Overseas Territories All Party Parliamentary Group, told “The Spanish will use the EU to try to exclude Gibraltar from agreements with the UK, there is no doubt about that, this is what they do.

“The government in Gibraltar is pro-EU, although they are also totally dedicated to remaining British and will put that before any ties with the EU.

“Personally, I cannot see how Gibraltar could have any kind of separate ties with the EU, separate from the UK.

“This would be a dangerous road for Gibraltar to go down, they should in my view, stick as closely to Britain as possible.

“Without Britain, Gibraltar would be Spanish, so Gibraltarians will be highly suspicious of anything that weakens the links they have with the UK.”

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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