EU, UK agree draft declaration on post-Brexit relationship, with no mention of Gibraltar

The text eliminates direct reference to Article 184 of the UK’s Withdrawal Agreement, the clause Spain objects to as it does not exclude the British Overseas Territory from talks

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The European Commission (EC) on Thursday agreed on the draft Political Declaration on the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom, an essential document for the so-called “Brexit” deal that is due to be signed off on Sunday at a European summit. The document, which is 26 pages long and has 147 articles, has been given preliminary approval by the UK.

The text that has been sent to the other 27 member states of the EU excludes any reference to the thorny issue of Gibraltar, the British Overseas Territory located in the south of Spain, and over which Madrid has a long-standing claim.

The pact evens out one of the difficulties that have arisen in the final stretch of the Brexit process

This week both the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, and the country’s foreign minister, Josep Borrell, made clear they would not sign off on the UK’s draft withdrawal agreement on Sunday if Article 184 within the text was not modified to make clear that negotiations on the future of the EU-UK relationship would not include Gibraltar. Instead, Madrid wants separate, bilateral negotiations on Gibraltar after Brexit, covering issues such as the price of tobacco products, the fate of cross-border workers, environmental concerns and cooperation on police and border control issues. Madrid and London this week reached preliminary agreements on these points, set out in four memorandums of understanding (MoUs) and a tax deal.

European Commission sources said on Thursday that the issue of Gibraltar, as well as others that have been raised by EU member states, would be resolved with resolutions appended to the main document. For now, the Political Declaration has also eliminated any direct reference to Article 184.

The 26-page long text excludes any reference to the thorny issue of Gibraltar

The pact evens out one of the difficulties that have arisen in the final stretch of the Brexit process. The Declaration should have been approved on Wednesday, but the snags identified by a number of European commissioners – such as Gibraltar, fishing quotas and the duration of the transition period – precluded the deal being agreed on during the meeting last night between the EC president, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the British prime minister, Theresa May. Brussels now trusts that this pact will overcome the differences that have arisen in recent hours.

The 27 EU governments are currently reviewing the Declaration and a response is expected for this Friday. Should it be positive, Juncker will meet with Theresa May again on Saturday and could provisionally close the Brexit deal, ahead of the European Council meeting on Sunday.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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