Spain is making Brexit trouble over Gibraltar. Well, Tories, we did warn you.

November 19, 2018

by Martin Odoni

Oh dear, what was I saying only a month ago, and back in April 2017?

I do not enjoy saying “I told you so!” At least not when the implications are so dire. But, Conservative Party, I bloody told you so.

Brexit‘ negotiations are facing fresh trouble. Yes, I can imagine what you are thinking. “WHAT?! How’s it possible for Brexit to be in even MORE trouble?!” And that is a fair question after the week we have just witnessed. But sadly, it seems it can. For the Spanish Government, just days ahead of the crucial European Union summit to agree the terms of the UK’s departure, has thrown a ‘Rock’-shaped spanner in the works. Spain is threatening to veto any deal between Brussels and London over the issue of Gibraltar’s sovereignty.

Now, the eleventh-hour timing of this intervention does look somewhat cynical, but the British are in no position to moan about that. Thanks to the breathtaking yobbery of Michaels Howard et Fallon in the spring of last year, the UK was practically inviting Madrid to make trouble at the worst possible moment.

This tax haven could scupper the whole Brexit deal

And let us be in no doubt, this is not some minor portfolio inconvenience.  For most of the text of May’s Brexit plan, a majority agreement at the summit next weekend would be enough to get the deal through to its next stage – scrutiny in Westminster – but there is a hitch. The details over Gibraltar are not a matter for the EU collectively. Last year, Spain got a special clause added in to the European Council’s Brexit guidelines, and it is a very powerful clause; –

No agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without the agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom

In every way that matters therefore, Spain effectively has a veto so long as Gibraltar is part of any proposed Brexit deal. And as Gibraltar is part of the UK’s European territories, by definition it will always be part of any Brexit deal.

So next weekend, the British contingent at the summit are going to have to go out of their way to be nice to the Spaniards, hoping somehow to persuade them to play along. And after the way Fallon and Howard openly talked about sending the gunboats in last year, that really will not be easy.

For Gibraltarians, the great majority of whom consider themselves to be Britons, and voted to remain in the EU, this development must be a real cause of consternation. The British Government openly insist it will not let Gibraltar be treated any different from the rest of the UK during Brexit, but say that to the Democratic Unionists, and hear them scoff about how Northern Ireland was supposed to be treated no differently until Theresa May revealed her ‘backstop’ plan.

I am not making light of this, or gloating, by the way. On the contrary, I am very anxious. Leaving the European Union was always going to be a risky enterprise, even if handled well. And it has not been handled well. It has been handled so poorly that it has pushed this country to the edge of a cliff, and a no-deal Brexit would send us hurtling off of it. A big extra hurdle has been added, increasing the danger still further. And once again, we have the Conservatives, and only the Conservatives, to blame for the growing mess into which they are dragging us all.

One Response to “Spain is making Brexit trouble over Gibraltar. Well, Tories, we did warn you.”


  1. […] west coast of Africa. (The entrance to the Mediterranean was kept open by British control of Gibraltar, interestingly enough.) Once past Gibraltar, the ships would skirt the north coast of Africa, and […]


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