British Prime Minister Theresa May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker closing the deal in Brussels on Sunday / Photo: EU Commission/Twitter

Brexit: EU, Britain agree on divorce terms, but hurdle remains

Leaders of the European Union gathered in Brussels have endorsed an agreement on Britain’s departure from the 28-nation bloc. But British PM Theresa May still needs to get the deal approved by the UK parliament.

Leaders of 27 European Union nations on Sunday endorsed an agreement detailing the terms and conditions on which Britain will leave the bloc on March 19, 2019.

The proposed deal, the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relations, outlines how Britain can keep close to the EU market after a two- to four-year transition. The treaty also covers financial matters, citizens’ rights and Brexit’s impact on Northern Ireland, and sets out hopes for future security and trade ties between the EU and Britain.

Negotiations continued up to the last minute on the 585-page withdrawal agreement, which has drawn fierce criticism from eurosceptics as well as pro-EU politicians in Britain.

But European Council President Donald Tusk urged all EU countries to approve the deal, which was forged after 17 months of tough negotiations. Tusk said that terms that had been agreed with Britain would “reduce the risks and losses” once Brexit is complete.

However, even though EU leaders approved the deal on Sunday, it needs to be passed by the UK parliament, where many lawmakers, including from Prime Minister Theresa May’s own Conservative Party, vehemently oppose it. The leader of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said his MPs would also vote against the deal, describing it as “the worst of all worlds.”

Even those in favour of Britain’s divorce from the EU dislike the deal, particularly the so-called backstop aimed at preventing the re-emergence of a hard border on the island of Ireland after Northern Ireland leaves the EU along with Britain.

© DW

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