The leaders of the EU27 have formally endorsed Theresa May's Brexit deal, leaving its fate in the hands of the British parliament. The news came via a tweet from European Council president Donald Tusk, around 40 minutes after a meeting of the council began.
Leaders in Brussels, including European Parliament president Antonio Tajani and Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, made it clear to reporters that, contrary to the wishes of many British MPs, they did not expect the deal to be renegotiated.
The meeting resulted in a short statement in which the European Council announced that it endorsed the agreement on the withdrawal and the political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between Britain and the EU. It also thanked "Michel Barnier for his tireless efforts as the Union's chief negotiator and for his contribution to maintaining the unity among EU27 Member States throughout the negotiations".
Speaking after the statement was published, May said: "On borders, laws, and money, this deal delivers for the British people," adding: "We will be outside the Single Market and Customs Union, but have an economic partnership with the EU closer than any other country enjoys."
"If people think there's another negotiation to be done, that's not the case," she added.
However, the deal seems unlikely to make it through the British parliament, which will vote in December. BuzzFeed News has counted 91 members of May's own party who have said they would not back it, and the opposition Labour party has said it will vote it down.
May did not confirm or deny whether she would feel duty-bound to resign if the deal fell down in the Commons, and said she did not believe there should be a second referendum.
On Sunday DUP leader Arlene Foster, whose party's votes May will likely need to get the deal through, also said she would not support it.
Foster told Andrew Marr there were "no circumstances" under which the DUP would back the deal, and went so far as to say the DUP could end its "confidence and supply" arrangement — which is keeping May's minority government in power — if the deal was passed.
The night before the meeting, May published a "letter to the nation", in which she implored people to back her deal, despite the fact it has been attacked from all sides of the Brexit debate.
Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt was among government ministers to defend the deal on Sunday morning. He told Andrew Marr the deal was "not perfect", adding: "The question is, can this be a staging post to getting 100% of what we want, particularly being an independent trading nation, a sovereign Britain ploughing our furrow in the world?"
Hunt, did not, however, rule out that the bill's failure to get through the Commons might lead to the collapse of the government.
Criticism continued to mount from all sides after the EU's announcement. Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said he was "likely" to vote against the deal, while Leave.EU, the Brexit campaign group, called it a "sell out".
Jeremy Corbyn described the deal as "the result of a miserable failure of negotiation that leaves us with the worst of all worlds". Most of his party's MPs are expected to reject the deal. Lisa Nandy, one member of the opposition party who some had suggested might support the bill, announced on Sunday morning that she would not.
Meanwhile Stephen Doughty MP, a member of the pro-Remain campaign group Best for Britain, said the political declaration "appears to represent very little movement on what is already a bad deal, merely a series of tiny fig leaves in a desperate 11th-hour attempt to stem a mass rebellion on the backbenches of the Conservative party", and described the document as "a victory for vagueness".
Some MPs want the deal to be renegotiated, and others want a second referendum. Former prime minister Tony Blair said on Sunday morning he thought it was likely that Labour would eventually back the latter option.
However, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the deal was "the best possible", adding: “I do think that the British parliament, because this is a wise parliament, will ratify this deal." At a press conference, he went on to describe today as "a sad day".
In the wake of the deal, French president Emmanuel Macron said that access to British waters for EU fishermen would be "a key point of future negotiations", and that "all of our fishermen will be protected".
His words set the scene for internal Tory clashes over the Common Fisheries Policy: One Scottish Tory, Ross Thomson, called the EU position on a future fisheries agreement "deeply troubling". Earlier this month Scottish Tories — including the Scottish secretary David Mundell — said the UK would have to leave the CFP, or they would revolt.
Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Alan White at email@example.com.
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