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Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya took a jab at Mr Johnson suing his predecessor Theresa May’s “Brexit means Brexit” slogan in an attempt to shame the UK into keeping with the rules it signed up for in the international treaty. Ms Gonzalez Laya’s rebuke comes as the UK Government prepares to publish the Internal Market Bill which will override parts of the Brexit deal it negotiated with Brussels.
On Tuesday Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis admitted the bill will “break international law in a very specific and limited way”.
Speaking at a press conference in Milan alongside Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, Ms Gonzalez Laya urged Mr Johnson to refrain from breaking the terms of the Brexit deal.
When asked how Britain’s attitude in the deadlocked trade talks could affect Gibraltar, she said Spain would hold the UK to its word.
She said: “In the same way that the United Kingdom says that ‘Brexit is Brexit’ the EU says that what is agreed is agreed.”
Ms González Laya said that Spain is committed to Brexit taking place with a “positive agreement”.
But she said Spain is nevertheless preparing for the possibility of a no-deal outcome.
In an interview with Spanish radio RNE, she said: “The best way to manage the exit is through negotiation.
“But we all know that the negotiation may not be successful, in which case we are all preparing, each country and the EU with joint measures.”
She warned it would be “a little more difficult to build more agreements if the ones already agreed are not respected”.
She said “the most important thing now is to create confidence” so that the European economy can recover from the blow of the coronavirus pandemic.
She added: “An agreement negotiated between the EU and the United Kingdom would be the best way to demonstrate the commitment with citizens and companies to relaunch our economies.”
The UK has agreed that any matter related to Gibraltar should have the approval of Spain.
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The Government of the British Overseas Territory, which has a population of 34,000, last month stepped up planning for a possible no deal Brexit.
Fears of a hard exit from the bloc this week stepped up a notch with the opening of the eighth round of talks between the UK and the EU.
The EU has responded with dismay to Britain’s proposed legislation which could snuff out any hopes for a deal.
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However, officials insisted they would not walk away from the negotiating table as the Prime Minister’s October 15 deadline for an agreement inches closer.
Manfred Weber, who heads the largest political group in the European Parliament, branded the publishing of the Internal Market Bill “an unprecedented breach of trust”.
The chairman of the European People’s Party said: “By taking this route, at this point in time, a no-deal scenario is the most probable outcome of the Brexit negotiations.
“The validity of the Withdrawal Agreement was and is a condition to our negotiations on our future partnership.”
As Michel Barnier and David Frost kicked off the latest round of discussions in London this week, Mr Johnson showed no signs of buckling with his threat to pursue a no deal exit.
Although Britain left the EU in January, it has continued to abide by the bloc’s rules during a “transition period” which will end on December 31.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.
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