On Tuesday, Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that Madrid would vote down the deal over Gibraltar, which was then formalised on Thursday. It insists that the British territory, located on the southern tip of Spain, should be discussed separately between the two countries rather than being covered by the deal. Speaking at an event, Sánchez struck a confrontational tone on the issue, telling the audience that:
“Gibraltar is represented by the United Kingdom, but it doesn’t belong to the United Kingdom.”
With important regional elections on 2 December, Sanchez is attempting to play on nationalist sentiment to sure up his Party’s support, particularly in the electorally significant Andalusia region that borders Gibraltar, which helped propel the Socialists into power back in June.
France is also asking for its own concessions to appease pressure from the country’s fishing lobby. The country wants guarantees that it can access British waters in return for zero-tariffs on goods. Nathalie Loiseau, the French Europe Minister, asserted that the government:
“will be very attentive to the political declaration on the future relationship, again on the issues of fair competition and on the access of fishermen to British waters.”
The proposed concession will give French vessels permission to make catches in UK territorial waters, which can then be sold back to British customers. The UK fishing industry has often blamed the depletion of stocks on the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy that has seen French, Spanish and Dutch fisherman abuse this right of access.
As the old adage goes: ‘nothing is agreed until everything is agreed’, the draft Brexit deal hangs in the balance over these contentious issues. Both countries hold particular political weight in these discussions, and it is likely that Sunday’s EU Council meeting could be marred by rebellion on the deal.