European Union leaders formally agreed a Brexit deal at a Brussels summit on Sunday, urging Britons to back Prime Minister Theresa May’s package, which faces furious opposition in the British parliament.
The 27 leaders took barely half an hour to rubber-stamp a 600-page treaty setting terms for the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union on March 29 and a 26-page declaration outlining ambitions for a future free trading relationship.
The President of the European Council Donald Tusk announced the agreement on Twitter:
“This is the deal,” European Union chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters on his way in to the meeting, saying he believed May would get it through parliament and ruling out big new concessions.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said now that the first phase was done, Britain and the EU needed to work for “an ambitious and unprecedented partnership.”
“Now is the time for everybody to take their responsibility — everybody,” he said.
Juncker called it “a sad day”, saying Brexit was a “tragedy” and tough on both sides.
“I believe that the British government will succeed in securing the backing of the British parliament,” Juncker said, declining to comment on what might happen if May fails.
“I would vote in favour of this deal because this is the best deal possible for Britain,” he added. In a sign of worries ahead, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite tweeted after the deal was endorsed in the summit chamber that the exit process was “far from over”. Barnier called the package a basis for close future ties, insisting: “We will remain allies, partners and friends.”
The biggest question now facing the European Union is whether May’s divided minority government can steer the deal, which foresees London following many EU rules to keep easy trade access, through fierce resistance in parliament in the coming weeks from both supporters and opponents of Brexit.