EU ‘obliged’ to take Spain’s side on Gibraltar, Dastis says
The European Union is “obliged” to back Spain’s position on Gibraltar as the UK prepares to withdraw from the bloc, the country’s Foreign Minister said today.
Alfonso Dastis confirmed Spain had spent several weeks lobbying to ensure its position on Gibraltar was included in the EU guidelines for the Brexit negotiation.
“I don’t believe in megaphone diplomacy, but we spoke with our [EU] partners and the institutions in recent weeks and we made the Spanish position clear: when the United Kingdom leaves the EU, the EU partner is Spain, and when it comes to Gibraltar, the EU is thus obliged to take Spain’s side,” he said in an interview with El Pais.
But Sr Dastis also sought to play down claims that Spain been handed a specific power of veto over Gibraltar’s future.
He also acknowledged that the guidelines were still in draft form and had yet to be formally adopted as the EU’s starting negotiating position.
“I don’t think we need to talk about a veto,” he told the newspaper.
“The proposal is only a draft of guidelines and it still has to be approved by the heads of state of the 27.”
“But we think it is very positive that the document sets out Spain’s position.”
In the wide-ranging interview, Se Dastis reflected on the extensive socio-economic links between the UK and Spain and said his government preferred a ‘soft’ Brexit.
“Spain is closer to soft Brexit," he said.
"We regret the UK is leaving. We want a balanced, reasonable agreement."
"But if they’re leaving the single market and the customs union, it’s difficult to think of a soft Brexit."
"Spain would like a close relation, as similar as possible to the one we have now.”
Sr Dastis also insisted Spain had no intention of closing its border with Gibraltar.
“There is no intention to close the gate,” he said.
“The idea is that Spaniards who live in the Campo de Gibraltar and work in Gibraltar can continue doing the same.”
“Closing the gate doesn’t come into my plans,” he added.
“I don’t see how that would benefit us.”
The Spanish Foreign Minister also stated that Spain would not "initially" block an attempt by an independent Scotland to join the EU.
“We don’t want it [Scottish independence] to happen,” he told the Guardian in a separate interview.
“But if it happens legally and constitutionally, we would not block it."
"We don’t encourage the breakup of any member states, because we think the future goes in a different direction.”