Spain Says EU Shouldn't Accept Brexit Text It Doesn't Endorse

(Bloomberg) -- Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said the European Union should not accept a text on a Brexit agreement that Spain isn’t happy with as he demanded more clarity on how future talks on Gibraltar would be conducted.

“The negotiation about Gibraltar is different and distinct from the negotiation with the U.K. because Gibraltar for us is not part of the U.K. -- it is a colonial territory,” he said in a news conference Monday in Brussels. He said he didn’t think it would be “politically acceptable” for the EU to agree to a text that Spain hadn’t given its blessing to.

Spain’s objections further complicate the task of sealing an orderly exit agreement before a key meeting of EU leaders on Sunday. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May is already battling a rebellion of euroskeptics at home, who oppose her concessions to Brussels, and Gibraltar adds to the challenges facing British and EU negotiators, as they seek to overcome disagreements over the content of a political declaration on the future ties between the two sides.

At a meeting of the EU’s European affairs ministers to discuss Brexit on Monday Spain requested changes to Art. 184 of the draft withdrawal treaty, even though chief negotiator Michel Barnier insisted that the text agreed last week shouldn’t be reopened. Borrell told his EU27 counterparts that Spain’s support for the exit deal is contingent on the content of the political declaration on the future ties between the two sides.

Spain insisted that Gibraltar isn’t part of the U.K., and therefore any future agreement can’t apply to its territory, according to the person familiar with the ministers’ meeting in Brussels. It also said said that an application to Gibraltar of a possible extension to the transition period can’t be automatic and should have its prior agreement.

Spain Says EU Shouldn't Accept Brexit Text It Doesn't Endorse

Speaking at the news conference, Borrell said the article contained a “certain ambiguity” that Spain wants clarified. He said he had been speaking with Barnier for much of the day and there wasn’t much time to resolve the issue caused by the “last-minute inclusion of this article.”

“It’s clear that a discrepancy has emerged with the U.K. about how talks on Gibraltar are going to develop in the future,” Borrell said.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.