Image: © Paul Handley via Wikimedia Commons

Now Spain is threatening to scupper any Brexit deal

Spain says it will reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal unless it get a say over any future trade agreement involving Gibraltar.

What it means: Britain finally has a draft Brexit deal. Unfortunately, it’s one that nobody in Britain, regardless of their stance on Brexit, seems to like. But while Prime Minister Theresa May and her allies are desperately trying to persuade Brits to back the deal, a new problem has turned up. For the deal to be legit, all the other countries in the EU have to agree to it. And it turns out lots of them don’t like it very much either.

Currently front of the pack of potential no-dealers is Spain, which is complaining that any deal an independent UK strikes with the EU will cover Gibraltar. Gibraltar was part of Spain until the 18th century, when Britain captured it in a war. It has refused to give it back ever since, much to Spain’s annoyance.

The 30,000 people who live in Gibraltar want to be part of Britain. (They have twice voted against being any part of Spain.) But they want to be part of the EU too: only 4 percent of Gibraltarians’ votes in the EU referendum were for Brexit. Its economy relies heavily on freedom of movement (13,000 of its workers are Spanish and cross the border daily) which Brexit is supposed to stop.

For Spain, this open border arrangement is also important, because the area of Spain that borders Gibraltar is poor, with unemployment levels of around 35 percent. Not only does the much richer Gibraltar provide Spanish locals with good jobs, richer Gibraltarians who cross the border to spend money in Spanish restaurants and shops help these businesses stay afloat. Hence Spain’s insistence that it be allowed to kabosh any Brexit deal that will put limits and checks on people moving between all British and EU borders.

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