The European Council special meeting ended on Sunday with the Council endorsing the withdrawal agreement with the UK and approving a political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the EU and the UK. In what EU leaders described as a sad day for EU they underlined that the agreement was the best possible in the circumstances and will not be renegotiated.
At the press conference after the meeting, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that he was satisfied with the unity among EU27 despite pressure from UK. Turning directly to the British Parliament he underlined that “it’s the best deal for UK and Europe.”
“Ahead of us is the difficult process of ratification as well as further negotiations,” warned Council President Donald Tusk, referring to ratifications by the European Parliament and all national parliaments, and details in the 600 pages long agreement which need to be hammered out. “But regardless of how it will all end, one thing is certain: we will remain friends until the end of days, and one day longer.”
The most difficult question, avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, is not solved yet. Until then the whole of UK and Northern Ireland will continue to be part of the EU customs union (backstop solution).
Both EU and UK are convinced that their future relationship after Brexit will be the broadest and deepest possible one between EU and any non-member.
British Prime Minister Theresa May echoed the EU leaders and was convinced that she had achieved the best possible deal for UK and delivered on the Brexit vote: control of borders, money and laws. She dismissed questions about what would happen if the deal will not pass in the British Parliament. “There should not be a second referendum,” she added.
Before the council meeting, Spain had threatened to veto the agreement because it felt it had not been consulted on a paragraph referring to future talks on Gibraltar. Spain insisted that the talks should be bilateral between the two countries.
This issue was resolved yesterday but statements by the British and Spanish Prime Ministers disclose the deep gap between their positions. The Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, claims that UK would have to open talks on “joint sovereignty” of Gibraltar while Theresa May said that she is proud that Gibraltar is British.