The irony is that Britain has spent months trying to go around the bloc’s Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, and appeal to friendly countries like the Netherlands and Germany for support in the negotiations, a ploy that failed and annoyed other member states. But now that the bloc’s other member nations are more directly involved, they are raising objections to what they see as a good deal for Britain, all things considered, not the reverse.
“There is mounting frustration with Britain and a new readiness to express it in France and Spain,” said Simon Tilford, a British economist and expert on Europe. “But this is the withdrawal agreement only, so it’s a bit hard to understand why governments are frustrated. The withdrawal deal just opens the way to transition and negotiations on a future arrangement, with guarantees for Ireland, that’s all.”
As for the British, Mr. Tilford said: “There is little awareness of how frustrated, bemused and bored with the whole process much of the rest of Europe is. The inability of the Brexiters to step beyond their own self-anointed identity and see themselves through others’ eyes is staggering.”
Before flying to Brussels, Mrs. May told British legislators that rejecting her deal would mean “more uncertainty, more division, or it could risk no Brexit at all.”
That last warning was also emphasized by Amber Rudd, who has rejoined the cabinet. “I think people will take a careful look over the abyss,” Ms. Rudd said of Parliament, “and consider whether they think it is in the best interests of the whole country.” If they are not careful, she said, “the Brexiteers may lose their Brexit.”
Gibraltar has long been a thorn in the relationship between London and Madrid — and the border dividing the Rock and the Spanish mainland was closed entirely during part of Franco’s dictatorship. More recently, the border crossing has remained an issue, with Britain occasionally denouncing in Brussels the toughening of border checks that Madrid has justified as part of its attempt to combat smuggling, particularly of tobacco. Britain and Spain have also engaged in similar feuding over access to Gibraltar’s territorial waters.
Spain maintains that Gibraltar is a colonial relic that Britain should return, just as it did with Minorca, the island that it also formally took over as part of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht. But Britain notes that the inhabitants of Gibraltar have voted overwhelmingly in favor of remaining British, including in a 2002 sovereignty referendum.
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