Thirty months after the UK voted to leave the European Union the two sides have signed an agreement on the details of the divorce and a statement outlining their plans for a post-brexit relationship. It brings to an end more than a year of wrangling over the logistics of Britain’s departure, including the financial settlement, the border question in Ireland and a last minute Spanish threat to veto the agreement over the status of Gibraltar. With four months to go until the UK formally leaves the EU, Theresa May must now get her party, as well as the rest of Parliament, to sign off on the deal.
“We will remain allies, partners and friends” with the UK, said Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator following the special summit in Brussels today where the agreement was reached. The United Kingdom “Leaving the EU is not a moment of jubilation or celebration, it is a sad moment and it is a tragedy”, lamented the President of the European Commission, Jean- Claude Juncker. British Prime Minister Theresa May said that the divorce agreement was “the only one possible.”
They added that they want to establish the “closest possible” post-Brexit relationship with London. This future relationship was the subject of a separate “political declaration” of the divorce agreement, which was also approved by the European Council.
Michel Barnier was thanked “for his tireless efforts” and “his contribution to maintaining unity among the 27 member states throughout the negotiations.”
This unity, however, came under strain in recent days, when Spain threatened to vote down the agreement if it did not obtain written guarantees on the fate of Gibraltar. On Saturday, Madrid received assurances from the EU that it would have a veto on any future EU-UK agreement concerning Gibraltar, the British territory at the southernmost tip of Spain, over which Madrid also claims sovereignty.
Other Member States had raised concerns in the final stages of the negotiations and called for additional safeguards in certain areas, such as future rights to fish in British territorial waters.
The next test for Theresa May will be December’s vote on the agreement in Westminster. Writing in an open letter to the country May said she is determined to see the deal get through the Houses of Parliament. “I will campaign body and soul to win this vote, (…) for the good of the United Kingdom and all our people,” the prime minister said.