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Spain forces UK into deal on Gibraltar before Brexit summit

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez gives a press conference on November 24, 2018 at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid to announce that his government will back a Brexit deal with Britain after reaching an agreement on Gibraltar. (AFP photo)

Spain has managed to force Britain into signing an agreement on how the two countries should deal with the British territory of Gibraltar, which lies to the southern coast of Spain, once Britain leaves the European Union in March next year.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday that his government and the United Kingdom had signed the deal on Gibraltar earlier in the day to clear the way for a summit of European leaders to discuss final Brexit agreement on Sunday.

“We have reached an agreement on Gibraltar,” Sanchez said, adding that any future decisions regarding Gibraltar would be made with Spain involved.

Spain had earlier warned that it would not allow the EU to convene its special summit for Brexit if there was no deal on future of Gibraltar.

As part of the deal on Gibraltar, Britain has reportedly ensured both the EU and Spain that it will not insist on forcing Brussels to apply a future EU-UK trade treaty to Gibraltar.

Gibraltar became a British territory in 1713. The peninsula should leave the EU along the United Kingdom on March 29, 2019 despite the fact that some 96 percent of its population voted in the 2016 Brexit referendum to remain in the bloc.

Spain, which claims sovereignty over Gibraltar, accepted Britain’s position on Gibraltar in 1986 when the territory was joining the EU more than a decade after London’s accession to the bloc.

British ambassador to the EU council Tim Barrow said in a letter published on Saturday by the British government that London “will negotiate the future agreements implementing the Joint Political Declaration on behalf of all territories for whose external relations the UK is responsible to ensure an appropriate and beneficial future relationship with the EU, taking into account their existing relationships with the European Union”.

The EU is expected to declare at the Brexit summit on Sunday that any future arrangements regarding Gibraltar must be discussed directly with Madrid.

“After the United Kingdom leaves the Union, Gibraltar will not be included in the territorial scope of the agreements to be concluded between the Union and the United Kingdom,” read a draft document issued on Saturday.

The EU also elaborated that if it reaches separate agreements with Britain on Gibraltar, those agreements should be approved by Spain.

“However, this does not preclude the possibility to have separate agreements between the Union and the United Kingdom in respect of Gibraltar... those separate agreements will require a prior agreement of the Kingdom of Spain,” said the document.

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