Source: El País

The president says that “if the problem is not resolved, Spain will have to vote no to the Brexit agreement because it affects the essence” of the countryIn the midst of uncertainty about Brexit, Spain and the United Kingdom have concluded a bilateral pre-agreement on Gibraltar. The two governments have provisionally closed the package that will govern the relationship between Spain and the British colony once it leaves the EU, together with the United Kingdom. It is about four memorandums of understanding and a fiscal treaty that seek to balance the nexus between Spain and the British colony, labeled as a tax haven. The president of the Government, Pedro Sanchez, admitted last night this principle of agreement, but he warned that his threat of veto to the general agreement of the Brexit persists.

Later, the chief executive spoke by telephone with Theresa May, the British prime minister, to whom he reported that Spain is willing to veto the EU’s exit agreement in case it is not modified to make it clear that the application in Gibraltar, the future relationship between London and the Twenty-seven has to be negotiated bilaterally between Madrid and the United Kingdom, according to La Moncloa sources. May’s office, for its part, has ensured that the negotiating agreement is global for the United Kingdom, so that it also includes the Rock. The conversation, at the initiative of Pedro Sánchez, has allowed the British leader to have a clearer idea of ​​why Spanish objections, explain those same sources.

In the midst of this malaise, Spain and the United Kingdom have achieved the first understanding of Gibraltar since the failed agreements of Cordoba, 12 years ago. Paradoxically, this milestone comes at the most critical moment of Brexit, largely due to Spain’s refusal to sign a text that does not guarantee, according to the Government’s interpretation, that Gibraltar will not be considered as an integral part of the United Kingdom in the future. .

Although the Executive avoided publicizing this agreement regarding the bilateral memoranda – the was announced by the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo – the president confirmed its existence and used it as an example of Spain maintaining a constructive approach to Brexit , despite the unusual threat of veto. “If the problem is not solved, Spain will have to vote no to the Brexit agreement because it affects the essence of our country, of our nation. And it is said by a government that has managed to agree on a protocol and four memoranda on the relationship with Gibraltar. Our attitude is constructive, “argued Sanchez in a joint appearance with the Portuguese Prime Minister, António Costa, after holding a Spanish-Portuguese summit in Valladolid.

The memoranda of understanding address the four most sensitive areas between Spain and the Rock. One of the most problematic has been tobacco. Through the agreed text, the Gibraltarian authorities must commit to raise the price so that it is not so attractive for smuggling to Spain. Another crucial document, but less conflictive, has been the one concerning cross-border workers (around 10,000 Spaniards cross the gate each day to go to their post in the Rock). The third includes environmental commitments (Spain complains that Gibraltar makes illegal discharges, among other breaches) and the fourth refers to police and customs cooperation. Perhaps the most important of all, formulated as a treaty, alludes to taxation. Gibraltar assumes certain commitments aimed at reducing the tax competition that the colony carries out, where many companies with activity in Spain settle to benefit from the reduced taxation in Gibraltar.

This pre-agreement is a first step in a long history of disagreements between Madrid and London on behalf of Gibraltar, a territory labeled by Spain as a tax haven. Memorandums of understanding only affect, for the time being, the so-called transitory period of Brexit, which will govern from the day of departure (March 30, 2019) until the coming into force of the future relationship between the United Kingdom and the EU bloc ( predictably, in January 2021). But Spain trusts that it lays the foundations for a more peaceful future contact. The reasoning is that if the Rock wants a close relationship with the EU – 96% of its citizens voted to remain in the European family in the 2016 referendum – it will necessarily have to be understood with Spain.

Picardo, who returned yesterday from Madrid, once the negotiations were cleared, said in a statement that the work has already been completed and that there are only “slight clarifications pending” that will be resolved in the coming hours. The Chief Minister will inform the ins Crossings of the Rock. The Spanish authorities also suggest that the five texts deal with most of their claims in this process: that with the departure of Gibraltar from the European Union, the relationship with Spain will be more balanced. The Secretary of State for the EU, Marco Aguiriano, will give more details today in the Congress of Deputies. This negotiation is parallel to the general agreement of Brexit, in which Spain does have strong objections to the solution that is given to the future of Gibraltar. Despite this uncertainty regarding the general framework, the Spanish and British governments have preferred to conclude this bilateral phase in order to pave the way in the event of the final agreement of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU. In any case, Sanchez is willing to thwart the next Brexit summit if the British withdrawal text and the political statement on the future relationship do not clarify that Gibraltar is not part of the United Kingdom (and, therefore, can not automatically benefit , without the approval of the Spanish Government, of the advantages that may be agreed in a future London and Brussels). “We do not feel represented or reflected in that text,” Sanchez riveted. The will of the Spanish Government is, despite everything, to achieve a fit that allows the text to be unlocked before November 25, when it is expected to be endorsed in Brussels by the European Heads of State and Government. To remain in BrusselsAlthough this blocking hypothesis is uncomfortable To some European leaders, who see an obstacle in the already complex management of the British divorce, the Portuguese prime minister wanted to support the Spanish objection. “It has been considered essential that there is no rigid border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. But the Gibraltar issue is also central to Spain. We have to make a great effort to please everyone, “said Costa. The British divorce was one of the European issues that both leaders addressed. With the insistence on clarifying the status of Gibraltar, Spain intends to correct an anomaly that has hurt it since it acceded to the European Union, in 1986. When the United Kingdom joined the club , in 1973, Gibraltar did so in a rather peculiar situation: as a non-autonomous territory whose external relations are managed by London, but without following many of the community precepts, among them the customs union or taxation. That allows him to be within the EU, but with abusive fiscal rules regarding Spain. This situation has caused continuous clashes between Madrid and London during their European cohabitation. Until now the European partners tried to maintain equidistance because it was a conflict that affected two of them. But with the departure of the United Kingdom, Spain wants to ensure that Brussels is on its side. Something that is not resolved, according to the interpretation of the Government, with the current draft of the British withdrawal agreement.

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