Brexit is a “historic error” that will “diminish the influence and prosperity of the British people”, Spain’s prime minister has said.
Pedro Sánchez told the Spanish parliament that his country would have to implement emergency measures to deal with the fallout from the UK’s departure from the EU.
The centre-left prime minister spoke candidly about his views on Brexit as he updated MPs on the situation following a summit in Brussels last week.
“Unfortunately, it was not possible to reject the request of the UK to withdraw from the EU,” Mr Sánchez said, telling the MPs that he believes “Brexit is a tragedy for the British and for the Europeans”.
He added: “There are more things that unite us than those that separate us, let’s give priority to the union of Europe and Spain.”
He suggested Spain could learn from the unfolding disaster in the UK, stating: “Let’s take note of foreign mistakes, let’s learn from the historic error which Brexit represents for the United Kingdom and think about the prosperity of our citizens.”
However, he contrasted the British approach to Brexit with that of other European countries, stating: “The British spend 24 hours a day thinking about Brexit and the Europeans think about it for four minutes every trimester.”
The prime minister said planning for a no-deal Brexit had to cover areas including the fishing industry, tourism, the rights of Spanish people who live in the UK, British people who live Spain and that the event “has a direct impact on each and every corner” of the country.
The International Air Transport Association (Iata), which represents 290 airlines, said this week that a no-deal scenario would halt most flights between Spain and the UK.
The Spanish public is resolutely pro EU membership, with a recent Kantar poll suggesting the country’s electorate would vote to stay in by 87 per cent to 13 per cent.
Last week, Mr Sánchez said Britain and Spain had reached a bilateral deal on the status of Gibraltar after the UK leaves the bloc. The contents of the deal are still private.
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