EU set to endorse Brexit deal but hard work lies ahead

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called the move a ‘tragedy’

In a bittersweet landmark, European Union leaders gathered Sunday to seal an agreement on Britain’s departure next year — the first time a member country will have left the 28-nation bloc.

At a summit in Brussels, the leaders were due to endorse a withdrawal agreement that would settle Britain’s divorce bill, protect the rights of U.K. and EU citizens hit by Brexit and keep the Irish border open. They will also rubber-stamp a 26-page document laying out their aims for future relations after Britain leaves at midnight Brussels time on March 29.

British Prime Minister Theresa May hailed the deal as the start of a new chapter for Britain, but European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the U.K.’s departure was a tragedy.

“It’s a sad day,” Juncker said as he arrived.

He told reporters that deal was “the best possible,” but the summit “is neither a time of jubilation nor of celebration. It’s a sad moment, and it’s a tragedy.”

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said now that the first phase was done, Britain and the EU needed to work for “an ambitious and unprecedented partnership.”

“Now is the time for everybody to take their responsibility — everybody,” he said.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the deal — the product of a year and a half of often grueling negotiations between Britain and the EU — was regrettable, but acceptable.

“I believe that nobody is winning. We are all losing because of the U.K. leaving,” Rutte said. “But given that context, this is a balanced outcome with no political winners.”

The last big obstacle to a deal was overcome on Saturday, when Spain lifted its objections over the disputed British territory of Gibraltar.

The deal must still be ratified by the European Parliament, something parliament President Antonio Tajani said was likely in January.

More dauntingly for May, it also needs approval from Britain’s Parliament.

May is under intense pressure from pro-Brexit and pro-EU British lawmakers, with large numbers on both sides of the debate opposing the divorce deal and threatening to vote it down when it comes to the House of Commons next month. Brexiteers think it will leave the U.K. tied too closely to EU rules, while pro-Europeans say it will erect new barriers between Britain and the bloc — its neighbour and biggest trading partner.

May insists her deal delivers on the things that matter most to pro-Brexit voters — control of budgets, immigration policy and laws — while retaining close ties to the U.K.’s European neighbours.

She plans to spend the next couple of weeks selling it to politicians and the British public before Parliament’s vote in December.

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.”

“It will be a deal that is in our national interest – one that works for our whole country and all of our people, whether you voted ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain,’” she said.

She said Britain’s departure from the EU “must mark the point when we put aside the labels of ‘Leave’ and ‘Remain’ for good and we come together again as one people.”

“To do that we need to get on with Brexit now by getting behind this deal.”

___

See the AP’s Brexit coverage at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

Lorne Cook And Jill Lawless, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Two arrested near Creston after allegedly fleeing U.S. border agents in Idaho

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Neighbourly Northern Flicker and friend drop by for a visit. Miriam Saville photo
Urban wildlife Part V: The East Kootenay birds of autumn

The work of local photographers printed in the pages of the East Kootenay Advertiser over the spring, summer and fall of 2020. Part V.

Incumbent MLA Tom Shypitka is contesting Kootenay East for the BC Liberals. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)
Wilkinson would have been a great premier: Shypitka

Re-elected Kootenay East MLA responds to resignation of party leader

Logan Terness made 31 saves to backstop the Trail Smoke Eaters to a 4-2 victory over the Cranbrook Bucks on Saturday at the Cominco Arena. Jim Bailey photo.
Trail Smoke Eaters double up Bucks, take Game 3 of Kootenay Cup

The Trail Smoke Eaters Chase Dafoe scored the game winner in a 4-2 victory over Cranbrook Saturday

A Cranbrook mother is receiving praise across the world for her design of a sensory path aimed at helping kids in school when they need a movement break. (Chantal Marra file)
Cranbrook mother receives international praise for sensory paths business

Chantal Marra has sold her sensory path packages to schools across the world

FILE – Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry provides the latest update on the COVID-19 pandemic in the province during a press conference in the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. shatters COVID-19 records with 817 weekend cases; masks now expected indoors

Three people have died over the past three reporting periods

B.C.’s Court of Appeal is in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Judgment reserved in Surrey Six slayings appeals

Six men were killed in suite 1505 of the Balmoral Tower in Whalley on Oct. 19, 2007

Kelowna City Hall has been vandalized overnight. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
Kelowna City Hall hit by anti-pandemic vandalism

Graffiti condemning the virus appears overnight on City Hall

FILE – A woman smokes a marijuana joint at a “Wake and Bake” legalized marijuana event in Toronto on October 17, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov
Home nurse visits could play big role in reducing cannabis use, smoking in young mothers

The program, dubbed the BC Healthy Connections Project, involves public health nursing home visits

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The ‘new normal’ for hockey parents in Chilliwack and elsewhere in B.C., watching their kids from outside of the arena due to COVID-19 protocols. (Submitted photo)
Chilliwack hockey parents petition to be let back in the arena

Refused access due to pandemic protocols, parents are now applying pressure to loosen the rules

Aaliyah Rosa. File photo
Crown says murder of B.C. girl, 7, by accused mother was planned, deliberate

The trial of KerryAnn Lewis began Monday in New Westminster

Most Read