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European Union Members Prepare To Vote On Great Britain's Brexit Plan

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

European Union members are planning to vote in Brussels tomorrow on Great Britain's plan for its exit from the EU, Brexit. And negotiators seem to have bypassed at least one remaining roadblock. Spain has reportedly reached an agreement with the EU on Gibraltar, so Spain will not stand in the way of a vote to approve the deal.

Teri Schultz covers EU affairs from Brussels. And she's in London at the moment. Teri, thanks so much for being with us.

TERI SCHULTZ, BYLINE: Hi, Scott. Happy to be here.

SIMON: The U.K. and Spain have reportedly reached a deal on Gibraltar, yes?

SCHULTZ: Yes, that's right. That's the latest that we're hearing. And I can tell you that European Council President Donald Tusk has now finally sent out the formal invitations to show up tomorrow morning. So it does, indeed, seem that the agreement has been reached to both Spain's and Britain's satisfaction, which removes the Spanish threat to scuttle the entire summit and the signing.

SIMON: What is the deal on Gibraltar?

SCHULTZ: Well, the problem for Spain, which has lasted for 300 years, is that it has - No. 1, it's always wanted the territory to be Spanish and not under British control, which happened in 1713.

But it was worried that after Brexit, in which it had this automatic platform to discuss the future of Gibraltar with Britain, that it would be frozen out of that process because Britain would no longer be at the same table. And it wanted, in writing, guarantees that it - that Spain and Britain would discuss any future decisions on Gibraltar.

And that appears to have been done. I haven't seen the text of the final agreement yet, but that was what was demanded. And with them telling us that the summit is going ahead in the morning, that appears to have been done to Spain's satisfaction.

SIMON: So does it seem as if a vote will be held tomorrow and the deal for what has been termed, the divorce, from Britain between - no-fault divorce between Britain and the EU will go ahead?

SCHULTZ: Well, that remains to be seen because while it now does appear that all 27 other European Union leaders are willing to give this deal their approval, with Spain having been the final holdout in the end here, that means that it gets an approval from the EU side. If it - the next step is that it goes to the European Parliament...

SIMON: Right.

SCHULTZ: ...And the British Parliament. And British lawmakers are threatening to block it, which, again, means that we're in, you know, a gray zone of not knowing exactly what happens next. The European Parliament is likely to approve it because, again, all of their heads of state will have approved it tomorrow. So I mean, there are still huge, huge...

SIMON: Yeah.

SCHULTZ: ...Problems and difficulties ahead for Prime Minister Theresa May.

SIMON: What's the view in much of continental Europe at the moment right now, Teri, because, of course, a couple of years ago, after the referendum prevailed in Britain, there was shock and astonishment. Are there now people in continental Europe - countries in continental Europe - who see this as an opportunity to, let's say, replace London as the world financial center or somehow invest in other talents around the continent?

SCHULTZ: Well, there are a lot of different views if you take such a broad view. I think the European Union itself, if you look at the EU leaders, they are - they were being heartbroken that anybody would want to leave, you know, what they considered this fine European project.

European Council President Donald Tusk speaks very emotionally about this and still says, we wish you wouldn't go. He said those very words. And you can hear a catch in his voice. I mean, you really look at this man and see that he can't imagine how Britain can think it will have a better life outside of this.

There are, of course, opportunities this will create for other countries - Germany, you know, perhaps having more of a lock on the financial center. And we have seen companies leaving the U.K. because of this uncertainty, because of worries about how their foreign workers will be handled, whether they'll get visas. Just, you know, money is a power there, as we all know. So there will be a - yeah. There will be people who take advantages from this.

And you've got a strong euroskeptic plank still that wants to see if Britain really does have a better deal on the other side. They'll start calling for Frexits and Dexits and Nexits and all of these kinds of things. So yeah, some people stand to gain, a lot of people stand to lose.

SIMON: Teri Schultz joining us from London, thanks so much for being with us.

SCHULTZ: It's a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.