European Union leaders have formally agreed to the UK’s Brexit at an emergency Brussels summit, urging Britons to back Prime Minister Theresa May’s package as “the only deal possible”.
Amid criticism of the deal from politicians on all sides of Britain’s EU debate, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Monday morning (Australian time) that the UK cannot hope to negotiate better terms before its departure in March.
“I am totally convinced this is the only deal possible,” Mr Juncker said.
“Those who think that by rejecting the deal that they would have a better deal will be disappointed the first seconds after the rejection.”
The signing of the deal at an emergency Brexit Summit in Brussels was the first major step in Britain leaving the EU.
Leaders from the EU’s 27 member states voted on two draft texts agreed by both sides during 18 months of negotiations.
The first is the 585-page withdrawal agreement, which formally sets out the legally-binding terms of the Brexit since 52 per cent of voters opted to leave the EU in a June 2016 referendum.
The second is an aspirational 26-page political declaration that highlights the future relationship between the UK and the EU, including close ties on foreign policy, law enforcement and defence.
The United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29.
Ms May described the Brexit package as “the best possible deal. It is the only deal”.
— Theresa May (@theresa_may) November 23, 2018
But Ms May, who wrote a “Heart and soul” letter overnight to the British public requesting their support, must still have the deal passed in Parliament.
It’s expected that a vote will be held in December.
That is by no means assured as many UK MPs – including many from her own Conservative party – have already said they will vote against the deal.
"It's not a moment for jubilation nor celebration, it's a sad and tragic moment" – President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker on the day EU leaders approve the #Brexit deal
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) November 25, 2018
In her letter, Ms May urged the Leave and Remain camps to “come together as one people” and get behind the deal.
“Parliament will have a chance to do that in a few weeks’ time when it has a meaningful vote on the deal I hope to strike today,” Ms May wrote.
“I will 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.”
The withdrawal agreement, which is colloquially known as the ‘divorce settlement’, details citizens rights, a mechanism to prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and states the length of a business-as-usual transition period while the parties lock in a post-Brexit trade deal.
Should Ms May fail to gain the necessary support in December, the UK could leave the EU without a deal. Alternatively, it could possibly move towards holding another referendum.