Spain has warned Brexit is a ‘serious threat’ because of the number of UK citizens who live in and visit the country.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy pleaded for Europe to stay together as he claimed British voters decision to quit the EU threatened his economy.
The intervention came on the day the UK Supreme Court cleared up the Brexit process, confirming Theresa May must secure a new law to start the Brexit talks.
The court defeat prompted a senior MEP to taunt Britain that the European Parliament would have the ‘final say on Brexit.
‘Brexit is a serious threat,’ Rajoy told people in Madrid at an event organised by conservative newspaper ABC.
‘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.’
The Brexit-related fall of the value of the pound in recent months has caused concern that fewer Britons may travel, and has British retirees in Spain worried about their declining purchasing power.
Officially, over 300,000 Britons reside in Spain, but many do not bother to register, with estimates suggesting between 800,000 to a million live in the country.
I will also tell you that the United Kingdom is the first destination for Spanish companies’ investment and our third commercial partner,’ Rajoy said.
He added that post-Brexit, serious thought needed to be given to improving the EU so that it was ‘more cohesive, more effective in its decision-making and with better political ambition.’
As such, he said the results of elections in France and Germany later this year – where far-right, eurosceptic parties are on the rise – would be ‘decisive’.
‘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.’
In remarks that will infuriate campaigners in Britain, senior MEP Manfred Weber, the leader of the conservative European People’s Party group of MEPs in the European Parliament, welcomed today’s Supreme Court ruling that Parliament must start Brexit talks.
And he claimed the controversial judgement showed the European Parliament would be responsible for finalising the process in two years.
EPP Group chairman Manfred Weber has claimed the European Parliament ‘will have the final say on Brexit’ after the Supreme Court ruling
Mr Weber’s claim is apparently based on the the European Parliament’s role in ratifying whatever is agreed by EU nation state leaders at the EU council.
Mr Weber, who leads the influential EPP group in the Parliament, said: ‘UK Supreme court ruling is clear: Parliaments must be respected.
‘European Parliament will have the final say on Brexit.’
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg rejected Mr Weber’s claim.
He told MailOnline: ‘The European Parliament will only have a say on the future relationship between the UK and the EU.
‘It has no say on Brexit which is exclusively a decision of and for the British people.’
Senior EU diplomats revealed today they have already received assurances from Britain the Brexit timetable will not slip as a result of today’s judgement.
Mr Weber’s claim – made on Twitter after the Supreme Court ruling today – is apparently based on the the European Parliament’s role in ratifying whatever is agreed by EU nation state leaders at the EU council
The Supreme Court ruled by eight votes to three that Theresa May must secure an Act of Parliament to start her Brexit talks.
The Government will introduce a Bill within days and has vowed its plan to trigger Article 50 – the divorce procedure in the EU treaties – before the end of March.
Malta’s Deputy Prime Minister and EU minister Louis Grech, whose country hold the EU’s rotating presidency, said: ‘The UK representative here made it very clear that he is going to prepare a short legislative bill to go to the parliament but he does not foresee any problems to stick to the deadline … before the end of March.’
Mr Grech was hosting a meeting on Tuesday of EU ministers and officials in Valletta, where Europe minister David Jones is representing Britain.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg rejected Mr Weber’s claim, insisting Brexit was a matter for the British people alone