Wednesday 22 May 2019

EU leaders endorse Brexit deal as eyes now turn to Westminster

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The 27 European Union leaders have endorsed the Brexit deal, European Council president Donald Tusk has said.

The endorsement means all eyes now turn to Westminster, where British Prime Minister Theresa May faces an uphill battle to get the deal through the House of Commons.

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said "it is a very sad day".

"A country leaving the EU doesn't give rise to the raising of Champagne glasses or applause. It is a sad day and everybody who spoke today during the European Council attempted to express their sadness.

"It was broadly shared, if not unanimously shared."

He acknowledged that "ultimately we did have a problem, a difficulty, with our Spanish friends" at the end of the process over Gibraltar.

"I would point out today that the agreement we have obtained here today is an agreement which is good for Spain, so we are with Spain," he said.

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said it was a "fair and balanced agreement" and "the best deal possible given the circumstances".

He added: "We will remain allies, partners and friends with the UK."

Jean-Claude Juncker added: "I am totally convinced that this is the only deal possible. Those who think by rejecting the deal that they would have a better deal will be disappointed in the first seconds after the rejection of this deal."

The European Commission president said "divorce is a tragic moment".

"Payments have to be made but the future understanding is one which has to be constructed.

"I don't think Britain will be a third country like other third countries are third countries.

"There is, between us, something which has the remainings of love."

VIDEO: Brexit deal will 'open door to division and more uncertainty' - Theresa May 

At a press conference in Brussels, Theresa May said: "Before Christmas, MPs will vote on this deal.

"It will be one of the most significant votes that Parliament has held for many years. On it will depend whether we move forward together into a brighter future or open the door to yet more division and uncertainty.

"The British people don't want to spend any more time arguing about Brexit.

"They want a good deal done that fulfils the vote and allows us to come together again as a country.

"I will take this deal back to the House of Commons, confident we have achieved the best deal available and full of optimism about the future of our country.

"In Parliament and beyond it, I will make the case for this deal with all my heart and I look forward to that campaign."

Entering the emergency summit this morning, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he regrets the UK’s departure from the European Union – but insisted Ireland has secured a “good deal” from Brexit.

“I still regret the fact that the UK is leaving the European Union. I think the best thing for Ireland and for Europe would be for the UK to stay in the European Union, stay in the single market and the customs union. But we respect their decision,” the Taoiseach told reporters in Brussels.

But he said the draft “Withdrawal Agreement” protected Irish interests, citizens’ rights, a common travel area, and a transition which will allow the EU and UK to negotiate a new future relationship. If those talks failed Ireland still had the so-called “backstop” which would ensure there will be no return of border controls in Ireland and continued free trade with Britain.

“It allows us to move on,” Mr Varadkar added.

The British Prime Minister has written a 'letter to the nation', insisting her EU withdrawal agreement will work "for our whole country and all of our people, whether you voted 'Leave' or 'Remain'".

Mrs May said the deal will "honour the result of the referendum", taking back control of UK borders, money and laws, and taking the country out of EU programmes like the Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy "that do not work in our interest".

She said the deal "works for every part of our country - for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, for our Overseas Territories like Gibraltar, and also for the Crown Dependencies".

And she called for Brexit day on March 29 next year "to be a moment of renewal and reconciliation for our whole country ... when we put aside the labels of 'Leave' and 'Remain' for good and we come together again as one people".

VIDEO: European Council leaders reflect on Brexit agreement 

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