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EU endorses Brexit divorce deal but hard work lies ahead
European Union leaders on Sunday sealed a divorce deal with Britain, and issued a warning to U.K. politicians who within weeks will approve or reject it: This offer is as good as it gets.

Amid criticism of the deal from lawmakers on all sides of Britains EU debate, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the U.K. couldnt hope to negotiate better terms before its departure in March.

EU leaders approve Brexit plan, but selling it to the British Parliament will be Mays next test

I am totally convinced this is the only deal possible, he said. Those who think that by rejecting the deal that they would have a better deal will be disappointed the first seconds after the rejection.

A few last-minute issues had remained to be resolved, including Gibraltar, which the weak Spanish government is insisting must be treated only as a bilateral issue with Britain. The sovereignty of Gibraltar, a British overseas territory on Spain’s coast that Spain claims as its own, has always been a point of contention. But after British assurances, Spain ultimately did not hold up the deal.

This is the deal that is on the table, she said. It is the best possible deal. It is the only deal.

But to British critics, the proposals represent the worst of all worlds, a Britain that is neither in, nor fully out, of the European Union. If negotiations fail to produce a good outcome, they fear that Britain could be trapped in Europe’s orbit, obliged to obey rules for years to come without the ability to shape them or cut its own trade deals around the globe.

Now that the EU has approved it, Ms. May must sell the deal to British parliamentarians – a huge task considering the intense opposition from pro-Brexit and pro-EU lawmakers alike.

Ms. May said Parliament would get a vote before Christmas, and argued lawmakers had a duty to deliver Brexit as voters decided in a 2016 referendum.

Even as the 27 other leaders of the European Union put their imprimatur on the agreement, they were eager to do nothing to make May’s task any harder. They, like much of the British public, are heartily sick of Brexit, and Europe has other challenges to deal with, including migration and populism, Russian aggression and the Italian budget threat to the euro.

The British people dont want to spend any more time arguing about Brexit, she said. They want a good deal done that fulfills the vote and allows us to come together again as a country.

Video: Theresa May: “I will make the case for this deal with all my heart” – BBC News

The last big obstacle to a deal was overcome on Saturday, when Spain lifted its objections over the disputed British territory of Gibraltar. It took EU leaders a matter of minutes at Sundays summit in Brussels to endorse a withdrawal agreement that settles Britains divorce bill, protects the rights of U.K. and EU citizens hit by Brexit and keeps the Irish border open. They also backed a 26-page document laying out their aims for future relations after Britain leaves on March 29.

It is true that the British people mostly dont want to spend any more time arguing about Brexit. But when leavers and remainers are united only in disliking Mrs Mays solution, that offers no way forward. Mr Juncker insisted that this is the only deal possible, though others were more cautious; tweaks are possible, but not the wholesale overhaul Brexiters demand. The alternative they posit, of a managed no deal, just means strapping on seat belts as you head for the cliff edge. Meanwhile, remain ministers have reportedly formed a new gang of five, hoping to steer Mrs May towards a softer Brexit after defeat in the Commons vote. On Sunday, Arlene Foster said the DUP could back a Norway-style deal, an option attracting increasing sympathy. The campaign for a second referendum is gaining momentum among both the public and politicians. Brexit is an economic and political disaster, fuelling, not healing, divisions. The extent of the folly has grown clearer with each turn of the page. But the ending is not yet written.

At a bittersweet meeting, EU leaders expressed sadness at the departure of Britain, the first country ever to leave the bloc.

Mrs May pandered to the Brexiters in the vain hope of assuaging them, triggering article 50 prematurely and laying down reckless red lines. Her letter to the public looks desperate in two ways: first, as a tactic, reflecting the increasing hostility to the deal among both Tory and Labour MPs; and second, in its content. She suggested the deal would clear the political space to address the burning injustices she has often pledged to resolve. If she was ever serious about tackling these – and her record to date shows little sign of it, the last budget perhaps least of all – it is clear Brexit cannot solve the problems that contributed to the vote for it; it will exacerbate them. Shamefully, her letter not only echoed but amplified the bus-side lie about Brexit boosting funding for the health service; the government would be able to spend British taxpayers money on the UKs own priorities, like the extra £394m per week it was investing in the NHS.

Video: Brexit: This is the only possible deal (May)

A country leaving the EU doesnt give rise to the raising of champagne glasses or applause, Mr. Juncker said. It is a sad day and everybody who spoke today during the European Council attempted to express their sadness.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her feelings were ambivalent, with sadness but on the other hand also some kind of relief that we made it to this point.

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I recognize some European leaders are sad at this moment, but also some people back at home in the U.K. will be sad at this moment, she told reporters.

Emmanuel Macron vows to keep Britain trapped in customs union if we dont let EU into our waters after B

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.

Mr Macron said he would only approve a full trade deal with the UK after Brexit if France keeps its current access to UK waters in defiance of promises to fishermen  (pictured) after the referendum

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

STEPHEN BARCLAY: Get on with it – or the British public wont forgive us

The deal must still be ratified by the European Parliament, something that its president, Antonio Tajani, said would likely take place early in 2019.

It is no surprise some are already trying to lay down markers again for the future relationship, but they should be getting used to the answer by now: it is not going to happen.

Frances Emmanuel Macron warns Britain has no defined role in Europes future

Ms. May is under intense pressure from pro-Brexit and pro-EU British legislators, with large numbers on both sides of the debate opposing the divorce deal and threatening to vote it down. 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.

French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured yesterday in Brussels) has vowed to force Britain into the Irish border backstop if it does not give up access to UK fishing waters

Brexit: Theresa May defends deal amid criticism from MPs

Pro-Brexit Conservative lawmaker Iain Duncan Smith said Sunday that Ms. May should demand new conditions from the EU. He said the deal as it stands has ceded too much control to Brussels.

Ms. 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.

And she warned if Mr Macron follows through with his threat then the UK would take the EU to the newly formed arbitration panel, which will rule on rows post Brexit. 

In a letter to the nation released Sunday, Ms. 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.

Number Ten has called a meeting with Labour MPs tonight where Theresa Mays inner circle will plead with them to back her Brexit deal amid massive opposition.   

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Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he thought Ms. Mays chances of getting the agreement through Parliament were strong.

It comes amid growing signs the Brexit civil war rocking the Tories is sparking bitter in-fighting in Labour as the crunch vote looms in just a fortnights time. 

He said British lawmakers would see that the alternative is a no-deal, cliff-edge Brexit, which is something of course that we all want to avoid.

She is sending in her trusted lieutenants Cabinet minster David Lidington and chief of staff Gavin Barwell to schmooze Labour MPs at a private briefing tonight.

Nineteen months of Brexit wrangling – and thats just a taster

After months of hesitation, stop-and-start negotiations and resignations, Britain and the European Union finally sealed an agreement governing the U.K.'s departure from the bloc next year.

He has previously warned Mrs May would increase the risk of the Tory Party splitting if she tries to get her deal through Parliament on Labour votes.

British Prime Minister Theresa May must now sell the deal to her divided Parliament — a huge task considering the intense opposition from pro-Brexit and pro-EU lawmakers alike — to ensure Britain can leave with a minimum of upheaval on March 29.

The PM is ramping up her PR blitz to win backing for her hugely controversial deal after more than 90 mutinous Tory MPs vowed to vote it down. 

It's a hard sell. The agreement leaves Britain outside the EU with no say but still subject to its rules and the obligations of membership at least until the end of 2020, possibly longer. Britons voted to leave in June 2016, largely over concerns about immigration and losing sovereignty to Brussels.

"I am totally convinced this is the only deal possible," European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said. "Those who think that by rejecting the deal that they would have a better deal will be disappointed the first seconds after the rejection."

"This is the deal that is on the table," she said. "It is the best possible deal. It is the only deal."

It is a very significant political achievement. It places us in a position of strength, Mr Sánchez said. The idea of the government of Spain is to solve once and for all…

Acknowledging the vast political and economic consequences of Brexit, May promised lawmakers their say before Christmas and said that it "will be one of the most significant votes that Parliament has held for many years."

"The British people don't want to spend any more time arguing about Brexit," she said. "They want a good deal done that fulfils the vote and allows us to come together again as a country."

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Not all agree. Main opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn called the deal "the result of a miserable failure of negotiation that leaves us with the worst of all worlds," and said his party would oppose it. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, whose Scottish National Party is the third-largest in Parliament, said lawmakers "should reject it and back a better alternative."

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Pro-Brexit former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith said May should insist on new terms because the deal "has ceded too much control" to Brussels.

Donald Trump slams Theresa Mays Brexit deal as great for the EU

On the EU side, the last big obstacle to a deal with Britain was overcome Saturday when Spain lifted its objections over the disputed British territory of Gibraltar.

So it took EU leaders only a matter of minutes at Sunday's summit in Brussels to endorse the withdrawal agreement that settles Britain's divorce bill, protects the rights of U.K. and EU citizens hit by Brexit and keeps the Irish border open. They also backed a 26-page document laying out their aims for relations after Brexit.

Still, the event was tinged with sadness on the European side at Britain's departure, the first time a country will leave the 28-nation bloc.

Video: Theresa May: This is the best possible deal, it is the only possible deal

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her feelings were "ambivalent, with sadness, but on the other hand, also some kind of relief that we made it to this point."

Video: Theresa May: This is the best possible deal, it is the only possible deal

EU finally seals Brexit deal; urges Britons to back PM May

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the deal — the product of a year and a half of often-gruelling negotiations — 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."

May said she wasn't sad, because Britain and the EU would remain "friends and neighbours."

Gibraltars Chief Minister Says UK to Retain Sovereignty Despite Spains Claims

"I recognize some European leaders are sad at this moment, but also some people back at home in the U.K. will be sad at this moment," she told reporters, but insisted that she was "full of optimism" about Britain's future.

The European Parliament, meanwhile, will be in full campaign mode a few months ahead of the EU elections when Europe's lawmakers sit to endorse the agreement, probably in February, but perhaps as late as March, according to the assembly's president, Antonio Tajani.

Brexit: Heres what happens now

Many predict it will fail in the British Parliament. No one can be sure whether that would lead to the fall of the government, a new referendum, a postponement of Brexit or a chaotic "no deal" exit for Britain.

This Brexit deal is BAD for Britain as France threatens our fishing communities and Spain threatens us over

But Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said he thought May's chances of getting the agreement through Parliament were strong.

He said British lawmakers would see that "the alternative is a no deal, cliff-edge Brexit, which is something of course that we all want to avoid."

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