The European Council is to meet on 25 November to approve the draft deal on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union (Brexit) and a joint policy declaration on a framework for future relations, European Council President Donald Tusk announced on Thursday. “If nothing extraordinary happens, we will hold a European Council meeting in order to finalise and formalise the Brexit agreement. It will take place on Sunday the 25th of November at 9.30 (8.30 GMT),” Tusk said at a press conference, confirming the date suggested on Wednesday by Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
Tusk also had a message for the British public. “Let me say this to our British friends,” he said, “as much as I am sad to see you leave, I will do everything to make this farewell the least painful possible both for you and for us.”
Tusk said he did not share the enthusiasm expressed for the deal by British Prime Minister Theresa May. “Since the very beginning, we have had no doubt that Brexit is a lose-lose situation and that our negotiations are only about damage control,” he said.
The European Council President thanked Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s Chief Negotiator on Brexit, for achieving “our two most important objectives”. Barnier, he said, had “ensured the limitation of the damage caused by Brexit” and “secured the vital interest and principles of the 27 Member States and of the European Union as a whole.”
European and British negotiators agreed early this week on a technical deal on Brexit, whose deadline, 29 March 2019, loomed dangerously close given the various stages yet to be concluded.
On Wednesday Theresa May obtained the green light from her government for the draft deal, which will now be examined by each of the 27 Member States. “It’s an important step forward, but we’re not there yet,” Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said on Wednesday evening, stressing the need to make sure that the texts “are compliant with our European values”.
Once the draft deal is approved by the 27, it still needs to be ratified by the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom. For the EU, the European Union Council needs to authorise the signing of the withdrawal agreement before sending it on to the European Parliament for final approval.
For its part, the United Kingdom needs to ratify the deal in its parliament. This is far from being a given, since it is already under fire from both pro-Brexit and pro-Europe legislators.