European leaders have finally approved a deal on the UK’s departure from the EU during an emergency summit in Brussels. The agreement now has to be endorsed– or rejected – by British MPs.
“EU27 has endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relations,” European Council President Donald Tusk said after less than an hour of the summit.
The agreement – approved earlier by the UK government – consists of two key documents. The first, a 585-page withdrawal paper, will guide both sides all the way up to Britain’s departure from the bloc, which is set for March 29, 2019.
The legally binding text covers the UK’s hefty “divorce bill,” citizens’ rights, and a number of measures to ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and EU member state Ireland. Starting from March 2019, Britain will enter a transition period set to last until December 2020.
The second, a non-binding document, is a political declaration that outlines aspirations for the future, including maintaining trade relationships, common foreign and defense policies, as well as close ties in law enforcement and criminal justice.
The prime minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, stressed on Sunday that “nobody’s winning – we are all losing” as a result of Brexit. Still, he admitted that the deal was an acceptable compromise between the UK and the EU.
Meanwhile, Lithuania’s president said ahead of the endorsement that the EU should not rule out alternative scenarios.
“Everything could happen, at least four possible scenarios could be in place, but it’s up to the British side to decide what path to choose,” President Dalia Grybauskaite told reporters.
The deal secured by May has received more of a pushback from British politicians. Several parliamentarians resigned over the plan – from Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab to Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey. Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also quit back in July, after previously referring to May’s Brexit deal as “polishing a turd.”