May and Juncker move forward on final draft of Brexit deal

Theresa May is welcomed by Jean Claude Juncker prior to a EU summit in Brussels. EPA

After an inconclusive trip to Brussels to meet European Union chief Jean-Claude Juncker, the British prime minister Wednesday said she would return on Saturday to finalise preparations for a full European Union meeting the next day.

EU leaders are due to ratify the draft divorce deal at a European Council meeting on Sunday but Spain said it can not support the agreement unless it is given a clear veto on Gibraltar's inclusion within the negotiations on the future relationship.

Neither side has much wiggle room left to polish the withdrawal treaty nor the political declaration on future relations that goes alongside it, but May must show that she has left nothing on the table if she is to convince British MPs to ratify the deal.

"I think people will take a careful look over the abyss ... and consider whether they think it is in the best interests of the whole country", Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said.

"Until it is clear. we will not be able to give our agreement", he said.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "She said there had been good engagement between the United Kingdom, the government of Spain and the government of Gibraltar in order to come to an agreement in the withdrawal agreement and associated package of memoranda of understanding relating to Gibraltar".

Spain wants the right to negotiate the future of Gibraltar with Britain on a bilateral basis.

The EU is due to hold a summit to discuss the draft deal on November 25.

Having seen off - at least for now - a potential leadership challenge by hardline Brexiteers in her own party, she hoped to wring out of Brussels a Brexit arrangement that she can sell to her parliament. However, there are signs of tension on the European Union side over the controversial agreement as well, with Spain saying it will not agree to the draft without clarity over how talks on the future status of Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory on Spain's south coast, should be handled.

Downing Street said yesterday the Prime Minister was, for example, looking to improve the provisions for security co-operation.

A number of MPs both from the leading Conservative Party and the opposition parties argue that British voters should go back to the polls to vote on the options of going ahead with the current deal, leaving the European Union with no deal, or even remaining in the EU.

"We are following the latest developments with growing concern and incomprehension - among the EU27 our Spanish friends are all alone on this", an European Union diplomat told AFP.

It refused to vote on the Finance Bill as a warning to Theresa May over her plans for the Irish backstop.

Rebels led by MP Jacob Rees-Mogg failed in their attempt to force an immediate confidence vote in May's leadership, but warned they would keep trying.

But controversially, it says that if that deal is not agreed in time, Britain will adopt a "backstop" arrangement to keep open its land border with Ireland.

So a single state like Spain can not block it.

But their relationship has become strained due to the DUP's opposition to the PM's draft Brexit withdrawal deal.



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