EU leaders endorse Brexit deal

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The 27 leaders of the European Union adopted an official statement in which they also committed “to take the necessary steps to ensure that the agreement can enter into force on 30 March 2019, so as to provide for an orderly withdrawal.”

European Union leaders of the 27 states staying on together after Britain leaves the bloc on Sunday endorsed their Brexit deal with London, chairman Donald Tusk said.

“EU27 has endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relations,” Tusk said after less than an hour of the leaders’ summit.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite also said after the session: “Brexit deal endorsed, but exit process far from over.”

The statement also promised “as close as possible a partnership with the United Kingdom” after Britain leaves on March 29, 2019, and thanked Michel Barnier, the bloc’s Brexit negotiator. They urged the UK parliament to back the deal as well.

TRT World’s Simon McGregor-Wood has more details from Brussels.

‘Sad day’

British Prime Minister Theresa May hailed the deal as the start of a new chapter for Britain, but European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the UK’s departure was a tragedy.

“It’s a sad day,” Juncker said as he arrived at the summit.

He told reporters that deal was “the best possible,” but the summit “is neither a time of jubilation nor of celebration. It’s a sad moment, and it’s a tragedy.”

The agreement paves the way f or Britain’s smooth departure from the bloc from the EU side, though a bumpy ride still awaits in the UK

In a formal statement endorsing the deal, the bloc called on EU institutions “to take the necessary steps to ensure that the agreement can enter into force on 30 March 2019, so as to provide for an orderly withdrawal.”

The UK is due to leave the EU at midnight Brussels time on March 29.

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.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the deal — the product of a year and a half of often grueling negotiations between Britain and the EU — was regrettable, but acceptable.

“I believe that nobody is winning. We are all losing because of the UK leaving,” Rutte said. “But given that context, this is a balanced outcome with no political winners.”

The last big obstacle to a deal was overcome on Saturday, when Spain lifted its objections over the disputed British territory of Gibraltar.

The deal must s till be ratified by the European Parliament, something parliament President Antonio Tajani said was likely in January.

More dauntingly for May, it also needs approval from Britain’s Parliament.

May is under intense pressure from pro-Brexit and pro-EU British lawmakers, with large numbers on both sides of the debate opposing the divorce deal and threatening to vote it down when it comes to the House of Commons next month.

Brexiteers think it will leave the UK tied too closely to EU rules, while pro-Europeans say it will erect new barriers between Britain and the bloc — its neighbour and biggest trading partner.

May insists her deal delivers on the things that matter most to pro-Brexit voters — control of budgets, immigration policy and laws — while retaining close ties to the UK’s European neighbours.

She plans to spend the next couple of weeks selling it to politicians and the British public before Parliament’s vote in December.

In a “letter to the nation” released Sunday, May said she would be “campaigning with my heart and soul to win that vote and to deliver this Brexit deal, for the good of our United Kingdom and all of our people.”

”It will be a deal that is in our national interest – one that works for our whole country and all of our people, whether you voted ‘Leave’ or ’Remain,’” she said.

She said Britain’s departure from the EU “must mark the point when we put aside the labels of ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ for good and we come together again as one people.”

“To do that we need to get on with Brexit now by getting behind this deal.”

Source: TRTWorld and agencies