EU approves Brexit divorce pact with UK

BRUSSELS:European Union leaders on Sunday approved a landmark Brexit deal, the basis of Britain’s divorce from the 28-member economic bloc, hours after UK Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to campaign with “heart and soul” to get the agreement approved by Parliament amid stiff opposition.

EU approves Brexit divorce pact with UK

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May at a news conference in Brussels, Belgium, on Sunday. Reuters

shalender@tribune.com

Brussels, November 25 

European Union leaders on Sunday approved a landmark Brexit deal, the basis of Britain’s divorce from the 28-member economic bloc, hours after UK Prime Minister Theresa May vowed to campaign with “heart and soul” to get the agreement approved by Parliament amid stiff opposition.

The leaders of the remaining 27 countries of the European Union (EU) signed off on the controversial Brexit withdrawal agreement.

European Council President Donald Tusk, after a special summit in Brussels this weekend, tweeted: “EU27 has endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relations”.

May now faces the final and biggest hurdle of getting the deal approved by the UK Parliament where many MPs from her own party remain vehemently opposed to it.

European Union leaders also warned the British parliament not to wreck May’s Brexit deal, saying a package agreed with her was the best Britain will get.

“Those who think that, by rejecting the deal, they would get a better deal, will be disappointed,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters after the 27 other EU leaders formally endorsed a treaty setting terms for British withdrawal in March and an outline of a future EU-UK trade pact.

Asked whether there was any chance Brussels would reopen the pact if an alliance of pro- and anti-Brexit forces votes it down in the House of Commons, Juncker simply stressed “this is the best deal possible”-although summit chair Donald Tusk sounded more guarded, saying he did not want to consider hypotheticals.

May used a post-summit news conference to make a sales pitch for her plan, telling television viewers at home that it was the “only possible deal”, offering control of UK borders and budgets while maintaining close cooperation with EU regulations that was good for business and the security of the broader region.

“In any negotiation, you do not get everything you want. I think the British people understand that,” said May, who arrived after the endorsement to voice hopes for continued close ties.

Parliament’s vote could open the door to a “brighter future” or condemn the country to more division, she said. “I will make the case for this deal with all my heart,” she added, declining to answer whether she would resign if parliament rejects it.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the bloc’s veteran guiding force, echoed that unwillingness to speculate on what she called a “historic day” that was both “tragic and sad”. But Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, whose country chairs EU meetings till the end of the year, said there could be no more negotiations.

“There is no Plan B,” said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. “If anyone thinks in the United Kingdom that by voting ‘No’ something better would come out of it, they are wrong.” 

Amid praise for Michel Barnier’s team for bringing home a deal after 18 months of gruelling talks, Juncker said it was “no time for champagne”, as one of Europe’s great powers walks out after its 2016 Brexit referendum. The harder work of building new relations now lies ahead, he added. 

French President Emmanuel Macron said Brexit vote showed Europe needed reform. He stressed that Paris would hold Britain to tight EU regulations, in return for giving it easy trade access. 

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite spoke of several scenarios if Parliament blocks the package: that Britons would hold a second referendum; hold a new election to replace May or return to Brussels to try and renegotiate the package. — Agencies

Now, All eyes on UK Parliament 

  • The UK Parliament is expected to vote on the deal in early December, where its approval remains shaky, with Opposition parties as well as Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party and many MPs from the ruling Conservatives are set to vote against it
  • All eyes will now be on the Parliament vote next month, with the agreement going back to the European Council where a majority of 20 out of 27 states will need to vote for it
  • It will then need to be ratified by the European Parliament, in a vote expected to take place in early 2019 as part of the tight timeline for the whole process being concluded before Brexit Day of March 29, 2019
  • If British MPs reject the deal, a series of scenarios are expected to play out, including the UK leaving with no deal, or an attempt to renegotiate or even a General Election

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