Spain agitates for quick UK trade deal

Eager to get on with post-Brexit talks...

Spain agitates for quick UK trade deal

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis Quecedo. Picture by Virginia Mayo AP/Press Association Images

Spain's foreign minister has rejected the prospect of a "punitive" Brexit agreement that would hurt London, as the country pushes for UK-EU talks to begin post-haste.

Alfonso Dastis presented his country as sympathetic to many of Britain's key demands, with FT reporting that he agrees with London that trade deal negotiations should take place at the same time as exit talks.

Dastis stated:

"It would actually be good, while we speak about the separation, to also define where we want to be in terms of a new framework [for EU-UK relations].

"We are interested in getting a result that is good for both sides. We won’t give up that interest for the sake of strict procedural requirements."

"We don’t see this as a battle in which one side has to come out as the victor and the other as the vanquished. I don’t see any intention to be punitive..."

This runs counter to proposals from the EU's chief negotiator, with Michel Barnier feeling that Brexit must be officially arranged before there can be any talk of trade deals.

The Spanish foreign minister is also in favour of a "transitional agreement" to smooth the path as the two-year deadline for negotiations gets closer.

He stressed Spain's desire to "preserve a close relationship with the UK", which can be attributed to the large number of Britons that live in and visit the country.

Rajoy: Brexit poses 'serious threat'

His comments echo those of Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy (pictured below), who declared Brexit to be a "serious threat" on Wednesday.

Speaking at a Madrid event organised by conservative newspaper ABC, he said:

"Without wanting to go into other considerations, I will only tell you that one in five tourists who come to Spain are British, and close to 17 million Britons visited Spain last year...

"I will also tell you that the United Kingdom is the first destination for Spanish companies' investment and our third commercial partner."

More than 300,000 Britons officially reside in Spain, but estimates suggest the actual figure may be between 800,000 to a million.

Rajoy also warned that elections in France and Germany, where eurospectic parties will be looking to make a big splash, would be "decisive" in terms of how the bloc would proceed:

"Spain... hopes that its two biggest partners will maintain their pro-EU vocation and their determination to push forward a project which despite all its imperfections is the best political initiative the world has seen in centuries – the EU project."

The Gibraltar question

One spoke in the wheel of UK-Spain harmony could be Gibraltar. Before leaving office in late 2016, former Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo openly stated that Brexit offers an opportunity for Spain to finally retake control of the British-controlled territory on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.

He said:

"It’s a unique historical opportunity in more than three hundred years to get Gibraltar back."

His successor, Alfonso Dastis, has attempted to move the conversation on from this issue, however, saying:

"My personal opinion is that we won’t put Gibraltar at the centre of negotiations. The situation is actually very clear and there is nothing for us to ask for: The UK leaves the EU and Gibraltar leaves the EU. If Gibraltar wants to make a life outside the EU, they are perfectly free to do so."