EU-UK Agree on Brexit Deal: Highlights of Divorce Agreement
EU-UK Agree to a Brexit Deal (Photo: MaxPixel)

European Union leaders on Sunday approved a landmark Brexit deal, the basis of Britain's divorce from the 28-member trading bloc.

The leaders of the remaining 27 countries of the European Union (EU) signed off on the controversial Brexit withdrawal agreement at a meeting in Brussels. They said the deal - which needs to be approved by the UK Parliament - paved the way for an "orderly withdrawal".

European Council President Donald Tusk, after a special summit in Brussels this weekend, tweeted: "EU27 has endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relations".

UK PM Theresa May said the deal "delivered for the British people" and set the UK "on course for a prosperous future". But she now faces the final and biggest hurdle of getting the deal approved by the UK Parliament where many MPs from her own party remain vehemently opposed to it.

The agreement, which May has described as the best possible outcome for the UK and repeatedly spoken in public to garner support in the last few weeks, follows more than 18 months of negotiations between the two sides, which began when the UK triggered Article 50 in the wake of the June, 2016 referendum in favour of Brexit.

In a letter to the nation issued by 10 Downing Street this weekend, May once again pleaded with the public to get behind her deal which will mark "a new chapter in our national life". "It 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," she wrote.

She said that "instead of an immigration system based on where a person comes from, we will build one based on the skills and talents a person has to offer. "Outside the EU, we will be able to sign new trade deals with other countries and open up new markets in the fastest-growing economies around the world".

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said anyone in Britain who thought the bloc might offer improved terms if MPs rejected the deal would be "disappointed".

The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, with a 21-month transition period kicking off when all rules will remain unchanged and during which time the Political Declaration will be worked on in finer details to hammer out of free trade agreement between Britain and the EU for the future.

The withdrawal agreement is needed to ensure that the process can take place in an orderly fashion, instead of the UK crashing out of the economic bloc without any arrangements in place for the future.

The UK Parliament is expected to vote on the deal in early December, where support for Theresa May remains shaky, with Opposition parties Labour, Lib Dems and the Scottish National Party (SNP) as well as government-backing Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and many MPs from the ruling Conservative Party set to vote against it. "I will 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," May says in her letter to the nation.

It will then need to be ratified by the European Parliament, in a vote expected to take place in early 2019 as part of the tight timeline for the whole process being concluded before Brexit Day of March 29, 2019.

If British MPs reject the deal, a series of scenarios are expected to play out, including the UK leaving with no deal, or an attempt to renegotiate or even a General Election. (With PTI inputs)