EU Leaders Approve Brexit Deal At Summit

by Samuel Abasi Posted on November 25th, 2018

Brussels, Belgium : Leaders of 27 European Union nations on Sunday endorsed an agreement detailing the terms and conditions on which Britain will leave the bloc on March 19, 2019. European Council president Donald Tusk said today that  leaders of the 27 remaining EU member states have “endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relations”

Leaders of the European Union gathered in Brussels have endorsed an agreement on Britain’s departure from the 28-nation bloc. But British PM Theresa May still needs to get the deal approved from the UK parliament.

The proposed deal outlines how Britain can keep close to the EU market after a two to four-year transition. The treaty also covers financial matters, citizens’ rights and Brexit’s impact on Northern Ireland, and sets out hopes for future security and trade ties between the EU and Britain.

Negotiations continued up to the last minute on the 585-page withdrawal agreement, which has drawn fierce criticism from euroskeptics as well as pro-EU politicians in Britain.

But Tusk urged all EU countries to approve the deal, which was forged after 17 months of tough negotiations. Tusk said that terms that had been agreed with Britain would “reduce the risks and losses” once Brexit is complete.

Spain, which had threatened to boycott the Brussels summit, decided to attend the summit in Brussels after a disagreement over Gibraltar was resolved on Saturday.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Brexit was not a “moment of joy or celebration.”

“It’s a sad moment and it’s a tragedy,” he said after arriving for the summit in Brussels.

But Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that given the situation, the agreement was acceptable. “Overall, I think this is the maximum that we can all do, both Theresa May and her government as well as the European Union,” he said in Brussels.

“No victors here today, nobody winning, we’re all losing,” he added.

Michel Barnier, EU Brexit negotiator, said that despite the drawback, all sides needed to act responsibly to ensure Britain’s orderly departure from the European bloc.

“No, it’s time for everybody to take their responsibility,” Barnier said, describing the deal as a “necessary step” to build trust between Britain and the EU. “We will remain allies, partners and friends.”

European leaders gave Theresa May her Brexit deal but warned that the UK Parliament must vote for the plan it stands because negotiations will not be reopened if British politicians reject it.

However, even though EU leaders approved the deal on Sunday, it needs to be passed by the UK parliament, where many lawmakers, including from Prime Minister Theresa May’s own Conservative Party, vehemently oppose it. Many MPs have warned they will vote against it.

Even those in favor of Britain’s divorce from the EU dislike the deal, particularly the so-called backstop aimed at preventing the re-emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland after Northern Ireland leaves the EU along with Britain.

Euroskeptics in May’s Conservative Party and their Northern Irish allies, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), argue the treaty will keep Britain too close to the EU.

After EU leaders endorsed the deal, DUP leader Arlene Foster told broadcaster BBC that she would “review” the “confidence and supply” agreement propping up the minority Conservative government if the treaty were passed by Parliament.

But in an open “letter to the nation” on Sunday, May claimed the deal was “in our national interest” and worked for all parts of the UK.

She said that Brexit could be “a moment of renewal and reconciliation.”

“To do that we need to get on with Brexit now by getting behind this deal,” she added.

EARLIER: EU Removes Last Major Obstacle To Brexit Deal In pre-Summit Talks

The European Union removed the last major obstacle to sealing an agreement on Brexit after Spain said it had reached a deal Saturday with Britain over Gibraltar on the eve of a summit where EU leaders will sign off on the divorce papers. The European Council president, Donald Tusk, recommended Saturday the EU approve the deal.

British Prime Minister Theresa May was in Brussels on Saturday for last-minute talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk on the eve of an EU summit threatened by Spanish objections to her deal on Britain’s withdrawal from the bloc.

Spain wants the future of the tiny territory, which was ceded to Britain in 1713 but is still claimed by Spain, to be a bilateral issue between Madrid and London, not between Britain and the EU.

Spain had threatened to veto the deal unless the wording was changed to give Madrid guarantees that it alone can decide on the future of the disputed territory of Gibraltar in direct talks with London.

However, an agreement reached on Saturday between Spain, the EU and Britain removed obstacles to the summit, both sides said.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, who had threatened to oppose the deal, announced Saturday that Madrid would support the divorce agreement after the U.K. and the EU underscored Spain’s say in the future of the disputed British territory of Gibraltar, which lies at the southern tip of the Mediterranean nation.

Spain wants the future of the tiny territory, which was ceded to Britain in 1713 but is still claimed by Spain, to be a bilateral issue between Madrid and London, not between Britain and the EU.

Spain claimed a major diplomatic victory.

“Europe and the United Kingdom have accepted the conditions imposed by Spain,” Sanchez said. “Therefore, as a consequence of this, Spain will lift its veto and tomorrow will vote in favor of Brexit.”

“We have reached an agreement on Gibraltar,” said Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez in a statement. Any future decisions about Gibraltar would be taken only with Spain’s consent, he said.

EC spokesman Margaritis Schinas confirmed that after a constructive meeting between Juncker and May, EU leaders were “on track for tomorrow” and the key summit.

But Britain said the statement merely clarified the existing state of affairs. May said Britain had conceded nothing on the sovereignty of Gibraltar.

“I will always stand by Gibraltar,” May said. “The U.K. position on the sovereignty of Gibraltar has not changed and will not change.”

The move should allow EU leaders speedily to sign off on the Brexit agreement at a special summit Sunday morning.

May hopes to leave Brussels on Sunday with the terms of British withdrawal on March 29 and a comprehensive concept for future Britain-EU relations settled with the bloc.

In an open letter to the UK people, she said she would campaign vigorously for British lawmakers to vote in favor of the main withdrawal agreement when it comes before Parliament.

“It will be a deal that is in our national interest — one that works for our whole country and all of our people, whether you voted ‘Leave’ or “Remain,'” she said late Saturday.

The British premier, however, is still facing significant opposition to the deal. The Democratic Union Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland, whose support is vital to her government, has said the deal would leave Britain in a “pitiful and pathetic place.”

The right-wing, “Christian fundamentalist” DUP, which is in favor of British rule in Northern Ireland, believes the deal’s backstop provision to ensure an open border on the island of Ireland will give the province a different economic status compared with the mainland.

DUP leader Arlene Foster told delegates at a party conference on Saturday that the backstop must be removed, otherwise the party will vote against the withdrawal agreement if it is brought before Parliament.

The DUP fears the measure could increase the chances of Irish unification, which it vigorously rejects.

Getting the DUP on board will be highly important to May if the deal is to be passed by Parliament, where May’s Conservative Party only has a minority. The Conservatives have a “confidence-and-supply” arrangement with the DUP’s 10 members of Parliament, allowing them an effective majority.

Britain’s finance minister, Philip Hammond, reiterated his support for May’s draft deal on Saturday, telling broadcaster BBC that it was “a way of Britain leaving the European Union … with minimum negative impact on our economy.”

At the same time, he warned that no deal would mean “very serious” consequences in the future for the economy, jobs and prosperity.

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