Spain eyes EU piracy mission HQ as Brexit sell off continues

Spain looks set to take charge of the European Union's anti-piracy operation off Somalia despite a challenge from Italy, as EU countries continue to pick over the spoils left by Britain's departure from the bloc next year.

With Brexit due in just 11 months, Spain wants to host the prestigious headquarters for EUNAVFOR Atalanta at its southern port of Rota in a joint effort that would see France assume responsibility for a parallel civilian maritime surveillance facility.

Italy entered the running late and its candidacy appears dwarfed by those from two of Europe's historic naval powers.

Time is running out for a decision to be made, and EU countries are concerned that a potentially embarrassing vote might be required to break the deadlock.