Eli Ridder | Report
The United Kingdom’s withdrawal agreement from the European Union was approved by the bloc’s leaders on Sunday, top official Donald Tusk announced during a summit of remaining EU countries.
The leaders of the EU’s 27 countries gave the so-called Brexit their support after less than an hour of discussion in Brussels, a day after Mr. Tusk said approval was likely after Spain withdrew concerns over Gibraltar.
The agreement sets out withdraw terms for the British divorce from the EU and a framework for future relations, but it still must pass a divided UK parliament ahead of the scheduled departure set for Mar. 29, 2019.
Tusk made the announcement via Twitter, saying: “EU27 has endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relations.”
The major development brings the United Kingdom one step closer to a formal separation from the EU, a move a very slim majority of citizens voted for in the 2016 referendum.
UK Prime Minister Theresa May has appealed to the country and to parliament to support the agreement ahead of an expected vote in early December, arguing that it’s the best possible deal London could get.
Tusk’s announcement follows over 20 months of negotiations between London and Brussels after the UK triggered Article 50 following the referendum results that supported leaving the European Union.
Two documents were ratified by the 27 leaders on Sunday morning: the 585-page Withdrawal Agreement defining Brexit and a Political Declaration outlining trade and security between the bloc and the UK afterwards.
A short memo published by the EU summit summarizes the dual files approved the countries, and specifically “thanks Michel Barnier for his tireless efforts as the Union’s chief negotiator”.
The vote was not a formal one, but the 25-year-old European Union proceeded by complete consensus.
UK is next
Prime Minister Theresa May will now try to get the Brexit deal through the British parliament in Westminster, but there is no guarantee that it will pass as even legislators in her own party have wavered in their support.
If the House of Commons reject the deal, there could be another referendum, a general election, a Brexit without a deal or an attempt at a renegotiation, according to analysis by local media and observers.
Brexit Chances in Parliament: tinyurl.com/y75rfbz8
While it may look bleak for May in parliament at this time, she will have two weeks to tour the United Kingdom and attempt to convince her citizens ahead of the vote in the second week of December.
If passed by Westminster, the withdrawal agreement will head back to the EU executive, the European Council, where it will need a majority in the form of at least 20 out of 27 votes to pass before heading to EU parliament.
If the Brexit deal does not pass the House as it is currently written, the British Telegraph reported that a few senior officials are crafting a back-up plan that proposes a Norway-style agreement with the EU.
More details to follow. Image of Donald Tusk from EurActive.