The Brief: Between ‘The Rock’ and a hard place

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Spain and the rest of the EU-27 have stuck Brexit Britain between “The Rock” and a hard place.

The draft guidelines for the upcoming EU-UK divorce talks concealed a hand grenade. The EU-27 has handed Madrid a veto over any Brexit deal for Gibraltar.

If it survives the chin-wagging and horse-trading before 29 April special summit, as it is expected to, the move will strengthen Spain’s demands for co-sovereignty over the tiny island.

If Madrid doesn’t get its way when the time comes to discuss Britain’s future relationship with the EU, it can block Gibraltar from having the same Brexit deal as the UK.

Spain has been banging on about Gibraltar for centuries but has never had the pelotas to try and take it back – at least not until now.

I don’t blame Spain. Gibraltar is home to a massive naval base, as shown in this great movie clip, not to mention some fantastic Barbary apes.

There is a legend that for as long as there are apes on Gibraltar, it will remain British. Gibraltarians have a stash of monkey Viagra to ensure the numbers stay high.

The Gibbers have had a vote on the issue. Given the choice of being Miguels or Josés, they opted to stay Daves and Brians. In 2002, they rejected the idea of joint sovereignty by almost 99%.

But that doesn’t matter now. Gibraltar risks being collateral damage for the first time since the Anglo-Dutch fleet captured it in 1704’s war of Spanish succession.

But the clause in the negotiating guidelines also points to a worrying new reality for Britain. The EU has studiously avoided taking sides in the centuries old dispute.

Not anymore. 26 member states are standing behind Spain, which requested the clause.

“The Union will stand up for the interests of its 27 member states,” one senior EU official said pointedly.

Britain is outnumbered, out of the club and on its own. It’s a sobering new reality and a stark reminder that size really does matter.


Thousands of pro-EU demonstrators congregated in Berlin on Sunday, bursting into a spontaneous round of “Ode to Joy”.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel has warned the Brits they will have to pay up in full before leaving the bloc, saying there can be no “UK rebate”. Analysts have criticised Theresa May’s threat to use security as a bargaining chip in divorce talks.

Staff at the European Banking Authority may be in for a culture shock if small, clean, boring Luxembourg wins its bid to poach the institution from the City of London.

Good news for Spain, as Madrid announced it had beaten the Commission’s deficit reduction target for 2016. The government hopes to bring the deficit below the 3% threshold by 2018.

US investigators have said last year’s election was targeted by Russian “propaganda on steroids” and warned that next month’s French poll could suffer the same fate. Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans weighed in, telling Spanish MPs that Putin’s support for the far-right was part of a plan to divide the EU.

The contenders for the French presidency have outlined their development plans but only Benoît Hamon has detailed how he would meet France’s international spending commitments.

EIB Vice-President Román Escolano told EuroEFE why EU investment in Latin America is vital to the bloc’s objectives. He said the EU still has much to celebrate “despite Brexit”.

Entertainment companies have called on the G7 to crack down on internet piracy, which they say is stunting their growth and suffocating their profits.

Small-scale fishermen in the Mediterranean must start collecting data to ensure their long-term survival, Fisheries Commissioner Vella told EURACTIV’s Sarantis Michalopoulos.

Kosovo’s president has bowed to pressure from his allies and shelved plans to create an army. Russian ally Serbia saw the project as a deliberate provocation.

Turkish tensions spilled over in Brussels yesterday as pro and anti-Erdogan voters clashed, leaving several people injured.

Samuel White contributed to this Brief.


Managers of Brussels’ popular Mini Europe theme park are thinking of erecting mini customs controls around their British models so visitors can “experience the consequences of Brexit”. It may just be a PR stunt. But it is a good one.

Views are the authors’ and not our sponsor’s.

This Brief is powered by Statoil. The foundation of Statoil’s new climate strategy: to deliver a low-carbon advantage. How can that be achieved? EURACTIV’s James Crisp puts the pressure on Bjørn Otto Sverdrup, Statoil senior vice president for sustainability in a “no-holds barred” discussion on climate, transparency and politics. Watch it here.

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