European Union leaders have formally agreed upon a Brexit deal at a Brussels summit, urging Britons to back Prime Minister Theresa May’s package, which faces furious opposition in the British parliament.
After a year and a half of arduous negotiations, 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 trade relationship.
President of the European Council, Mr. Donald Tusk, announced the agreement on Sunday via Twitter.
“EU27 has endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relations,” he said.
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said now that the first phase was done, the UK and the EU needed to work for “an ambitious and unprecedented partnership”.
“We will remain allies, partners and friends now is the time for everybody to take their responsibility everybody,” he said.
President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, meanwhile, said the sign-off on the agreement marked a “sad day” but backed May to steer the deal through parliament when it is put to a vote next month.
“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.
May now faces the arduous task of winning parliamentary backing for the deal, which foresees London following many EU rules to keep easy trade access, with the British leader expected to face fierce resistance in the coming weeks from both supporters and opponents of Brexit within her government and other opposition parties.
For those in favour of Britain remaining in the bloc, the agreement is a watered down, inadequate version of the country’s existing membership arrangement with access to its customs union and the single market.
For those in favour of a definitive Brexit, however, the deal fails to deliver on a clean break with the European project.
On Sunday, May defended the terms of the agreement, saying the deal “unlocks a bright future for the UK” and claws back control of “borders money and laws” from Brussels.
When the British people look at this deal they will see it is a good one for our country and that it is in the national interest for everyone to get behind it,” May said in a statement.
“The British people don’t want to spend any more time arguing about Brexit. They want a good deal was done that fulfils the vote and allows us to come together again as a country,” she added.
The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, Aljazeera reported.
The leader of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said in a statement on Sunday he would oppose the brokered agreement during next month’s parliamentary vote.
“This is a bad deal for the country. It is the result of a miserable failure of negotiation that leaves us with the worst of all worlds. It gives us less say over our future, and puts jobs and living standards at risk,” Corbyn said.
“Labour will oppose this deal in parliament. We will work with others to block a no deal outcome, and ensure that Labour’s alternative plan for a sensible deal to bring the country together is on the table,” he added.