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EU Accepts May’s Brexit Deal

All 27 members of the European Union met in Brussels on Sunday to discuss British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal. After twenty months of negotiations, EU leaders approved the deal in less than an hour of discussion. The meeting was mostly symbolic, as approval was expected despite concerns from Spain about the British territory of Gibraltar.

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at the Brussels summit November 25. Photo: Yves Herman/ Reuters

British Prime Minister Theresa May arrives at the Brussels summit November 25. Photo: Yves Herman/Reuters

The 599-page treaty establishes the terms for the UK’s March 29 withdrawal from the EU and a 26-page declaration states the terms of a future free trading relationship. EU leaders have declared that the agreement is the “best and only deal possible” for future EU relations and provides for the UK’s “orderly withdrawal.” European Council President Donald Tusk announced the endorsement of the divorce deal on Twitter after the November 25 gathering.

All 27 EU member states endorsed the divorce deal. Photo:  RTE

All 27 EU member states endorsed the divorce deal. Photo: RTE

Despite the much-hoped-for success of agreement on a withdrawal deal, few EU members expressed happiness. EU Chief Executive Jean-Claude Juncker called it “a sad day,” describing Brexit as a “tragedy” for both the EU and the UK. While German Chancellor Angela Merkel dubbed the withdrawal deal a “piece of diplomatic art,” she also lamented that “it is tragic that Great Britain leaves the EU after 45 years.”

May disagreed with leaders who bemoaned the Brexit deal, stating she was “full of optimism.” May must now convince UK Parliament lawmakers to vote for her deal. Domestic support for the deal will prove difficult as opposition parties and lawmakers in the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party and May’s own Conservative Party said they will vote against the deal.

The Commons vote is expected to take place in early December and some EU leaders appear eager to keep their options open in case May returns without the vote.

The UK has remained split on the issue of EU withdrawal since Britons voted to leave in 2016. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition, called May’s terms of withdrawal “a bad deal for the country.” Despite the reassuring acceptance of May’s deal, fears of a no-deal March 29 withdrawal cannot yet be extinguished.