The flags of the British Union, left, Gibraltar, center, and the European Union (EU) fly from flagpoles beneath the rock of Gibraltar in Gibraltar. (Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg)

Spain Criticizes `Treacherous' Change Made to Brexit Text

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A Spanish official criticized the inclusion of an article in the Brexit text that his government believes has unacceptably blurred the issue of future talks over Gibraltar.

The change was made in an “almost nocturnal and treacherous” way, Luis Marco Aguiriano, Spain’s Secretary of State for the European Union, said in parliament on Thursday. He said the issue had to be clarified or Spain couldn’t back the accord.

Spain is threatening to vote against the Brexit accord because it feels the text doesn’t make it sufficiently explicit that the country must give its blessing to any talks on the future of Gibraltar between the EU and the U.K. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Wednesday he was annoyed by the change and that the text was unacceptable to Spain.

While the Brexit deal won’t be finalized until leaders sign off on it at a summit on Sunday, no one country wields a veto in the process.

Aguiriano said that if the EU’s legal services don’t think there’s any risk in the text, they should say so in writing. Another option could be to “stop the clock” and call another meeting of the European council, he said.

Sanchez, who is on an official visit to Cuba, said last night that after a conversation with U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, the positions of the two countries remain far apart. “My government will always defend the interests of Spain,” he said on Twitter.

Summit communiques by EU leaders can only be issued by unanimity, meaning that Spain has the power to veto any joint statement, and force Donald Tusk, who chairs their meetings, to issue a personal statement on behalf of the bloc, instead of the 27 leaders together.

The ratification of the Withdrawal Treaty, which will take place by ministers at a later stage, only requires a supermajority. That means Spain cannot block it on its own. That said, the EU is unlikely to take a decision in which one of its members has a direct stake without addressing its concerns.

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