Spain, Britain at COVID-19 Loggerheads

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LONDON – A former Spanish prime minister as soon as described the rock of Gibraltar, which Spain ceded to Britain in 1713, as a stone within the shoe of Anglo-Spanish relations. But Gibraltar at the moment isn’t the one supply of Spanish irritation with the British.

Last week’s abrupt choice by London to require Britons coming back from trip in Spain to quarantine for 14 days has angered a Spanish authorities determined to salvage one thing from the wrecked summer time tourism season. And it augurs badly for Britain’s ongoing, fraught negotiations with the European Union for a post-Brexit free-trade deal.

The two governments have been at loggerheads since Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his advisers abruptly reintroduced the quarantine measures six days in the past — to howls of protests not solely from the Spanish authorities but additionally from Britain’s struggling airways and Spanish hoteliers attempting to stave off chapter.

Johnson’s official spokesman warned “no travel is risk-free during this pandemic.” Since then, Luxembourg has been added to Britain’s checklist of dangerous nations to go to.

The Spanish authorities has been lobbying Downing Street to alter its thoughts, stating that giant components of Spain, together with the vacationer hotspots of the Canary and Balearic Islands, are safer than Britain and have a lot decrease coronavirus an infection charges.

In an interview final week with the Telecinco TV community, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez stated his authorities was “talking with British authorities to try to get them to reconsider.” He stated Britain had made an error by lumping all of Spain collectively and never taking a extra scientific and complicated regional method.

He famous practically 65 p.c of Spain’s new instances are occurring in two areas — Catalonia within the northeast and neighboring Aragón. Britain’s quarantine requirement is “not well adjusted” to the epidemiological state of affairs, he stated. The Spanish level out that different European nations, notably France and Germany, have solely suggested their residents towards visiting Catalonia.

Under relentless strain from Madrid, the British authorities says it should evaluate in 10 days’ time the quarantine requirement, which has prompted tens of 1000’s of would-be vacationers to cancel their journey plans. Low-cost airways have halted flights to Spain. The evaluate provides some hope to Spain that Britain might reverse its choice.

But Britain’s quarantine choice is prompting a fierce backlash on the Iberian Peninsula that dangers vital affect on Brexit talks.

Spanish ministers are fuming. They got no warning by London. The Spanish see the transfer as a stab within the again. Britons account for greater than a fifth of the 80 million vacationers who go to Spain in common yearly. Nearly half one million Britons personal trip properties in Spain. The Spanish tourism affiliation has provided to pay for British vacationers to take virus checks in Spain.

The dispute is threatening to reignite tensions between the 2 nations over the destiny of Gibraltar, analysts say. Spanish politicians, goaded by the nation’s tabloid press, are warning that they received’t do Britain any favors within the deadlocked negotiations over Britain’s relationship with the EU. A key stumbling block within the negotiations is over fishing rights in Britain’s waters.

Gibraltar may nicely be sued to additional complicate Brexit negotiations. The present authorities in Madrid has dropped pushing Spain’s sovereignty declare to Gibraltar, nevertheless it would possibly revive it beneath strain from Spain’s parliament.

Gibraltar is determined to make sure will probably be in a position to profit from a free-trade pact, if one is ever concluded, between Britain and the EU. Spain may wield a veto over that taking place, shutting Gibraltar out of any straightforward relationship with the remainder of the EU. Spain’s EU Affairs Minister Juan Gonzalez-Barba warned final month, earlier than the present spat, that talks over Gibraltar’s future relationship with Spain and the EU “will not be easy.”

And he hinted Spain may revive sovereignty ambitions. Ninety-six p.c of Gibraltar’s voters opposed Brexit within the 2016 EU referendum.

Spain’s Iberian neighbor, Portugal, is also in dispute with Britain. Portugal was not included on Britain’s safe-last of nations, which was first printed final month. The nation’s overseas ministry blasted the exclusion, noting that 28 occasions extra folks had died from COVID-19 in Britain than in Portugal. An infuriated António Costa, the prime minister, tweeted a graph illustrating it was safer within the vacationer hotspot the Algarve, favored by British sun-seekers, than it was in Britain.

While Portugal has loved centuries of fine relations with Britain, Anglo-Spanish relations have been extra uneasy, stretching again to Tudor occasions when Henry VIII offended Spain by ditching and humiliating his first spouse, Catherine of Aragon. British piracy through the reign of Queen Elizabeth I within the “Spain Main” off the shoreline of the Americas and within the Caribbean Sea set the scene for Spain’s bid to invade England. But the Spanish Armada was defeated by legendary English seadogs like Sir Francis Drake.  



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