Since the news about London agreeing the text of the Brexit withdrawal agreement emerged, the issue of Gibraltar has been gaining momentum, with the Spanish authorities threatening to veto the deal unless the document was amended to incorporate provisions on direct Madrid-London talks on Gibraltar, which Spain views as its territory.
The series of controversial statements by the UK and Spanish authorities regarding the possibility of reaching a compromise on the matter are due to be carried to their logical conclusion on Sunday, when the EU27 leaders will vote on the draft Brexit deal, including the withdrawal agreement and the declaration on the future EU-UK relations.
Show-off for Domestic Audience
Steven Woolfe, a member of the European Parliament from the United Kingdom, told Sputnik that he considered the stance of the Spanish authorities on the issue ridiculous, arguing that the UK side had assured its Spanish colleagues on numerous occasions that the Gibraltar issue will be resolved bilaterally by London and Madrid.
He suggested that Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez' rigid position might have targeted the Spanish public, first and foremost, and aimed to create an image of a strong leader.
"The threat by Pedro Sanchez of not signing the Brexit deal on Sunday is just destined to his internal audience in Spain, to look unnecessarily tough, where there is no need for it. It is a a storm in a glass of water!" Woolfe argued.
Beatriz Becerra, a member of the European Parliament's Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, on the contrary, insisted that what has been stated by the UK leadership on several occasions should be formalized on the paper.
"The texts, as they are currently drafted, do not make it clear without any doubt that all questions relating to how this future relationship will apply in Gibraltar must be independent of the general negotiation and in addition must always have the prior approval of Spain. This has been recognized by the Spanish Secretary of State for the EU Luis Marco Aguiriano, but it must be written in full letters," Becerra stated.
"The International Legal Department of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation has confirmed it: this interpretation is unacceptable for Spain," Becerra underlined.
She added that if the Spanish authorities failed to address the issue before the draft agreement's approval, the responsibility for the "Gibraltar fiasco" would rest with the government.
Gibraltar, located on the southern coast of Spain, has been a British Overseas Territory since 1713, when Spain ceded it to the United Kingdom under Utrecht Treaty. The region’s residents rejected the idea of Spanish sovereignty in 1967 and joint UK-Spanish authority in 2002.
The region is set to leave the European Union together with the rest of the United Kingdom in March 2019. The Brexit agreement between London and Brussels includes a special protocol on Gibraltar.