European Union leaders approve 'tragic' Brexit deal

European Union leaders approve 'tragic' Brexit deal

On Sunday, the leaders of the 28 European Union countries are expected to meet in Brussels at a carefully choreographed summit to approve Brexit plans and an accompanying political declaration on the future ties between Britain and the 27 European Union nations that will say goodbye officially in March.

The European leaders on Sunday endorsed the Brexit deal at the European Union (EU) summit, a major breakthrough since the lengthy Britain-EU Brexit negotiation started one and half years ago.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez threatened to boycott Sunday's meeting if he did not get amendments to the deal to ensure Madrid gets a say in Gibraltar's future ties with the EU.

Eurosceptics in May's Conservative party and their Northern Irish allies warn they will not support the agreement when MPs vote as expected next month.

"Madrid saw Brexit as an opportunity to reconfigure the status of the territory which is administered by the United Kingdom", wrote Ignacio Molina, an expert on the European Union at the Real Instituto Elcano, in Agenda Publica, an analysis website.

In a "letter to the nation" released Sunday, May said she would 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".

But it is not the final stage, as the House of Commons in London must still approve the deal before Brexit day on March 29, 2019 - and many MPs have warned they will not back it.

At Sunday's press conference, she again refused to rule out resigning if the deal is rejected by parliament next month, saying: "It's not about me".

The deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland has used a party conference speech to try to persuade Prime Minister Theresa May to change course on Brexit.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, right, greets British Prime Minister Theresa May at EU headquarters in Brussels, Nov. 24, 2018.

"We have worked through the withdrawal issues for Gibraltar in a constructive and sensible way".

The summit, he said, could go ahead now that he had received written assurances that meant that in the future Madrid and London could directly negotiate on Brexit issues relating to Gibraltar.

"Those who think that by rejecting the deal that they would have a better deal will be disappointed in the first seconds after the rejection of this deal".

The AP noted that the vote is likely to be divisive, as pro-Brexit lawmakers are anxious that May has not done enough to separate the United Kingdom from the EU, while those who are opposed to Brexit are concerned the agreement will negatively impact economic ties with other European nations.

The deal will now be voted on in the British parliament, where critics say May's plan is doomed.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake claimed the Prime Minister had "caved in" and "appears to have cast the people of Gibraltar aside".

Theresa May said the UK's position on the sovereignty of Gibraltar has not changed following claims she caved in to Spanish demands for concessions over the future of the territory.

Sanchez said the agreement reached would give Spain "absolute guarantees to resolve the conflict that has lasted for more than 300 years before Spain and the U.K".

But May insisted it was the United Kingdom who had scored a victory in negotiations by ensuring Gibraltar was covered by the withdrawal agreement.

"I want that to be a moment of renewal and reconciliation for our whole country", she writes.

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

Tajani said a "large majority" of European parliamentarians supported the deal.

British and European Union negotiators will still have to work out the terms of their future relationship, and although a 36-page declaration also approved Sunday set out some of the guidelines, much remained unresolved, including Britain's freedom to control large parts of its own economy.

European leaders have approved the UK's Brexit deal, clearing a symbolic hurdle in the country's exit from the EU.

During a radio grilling from the public, Mrs May refused to rule out resigning as Prime Minister if her highly contentious Brexit divorce deal is voted down.

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