EU leaders warned Theresa May’s government that there will be no renegotiation of the Brexit deal they approved at a special summit today.
This means that if the UK Parliament votes the deal down – as it is forecast to do – Mrs May’s options will not include attempting to secure further EU concessions.
The European Commission’s approval of the deal follows 18 months of protracted and often fraught negotiations between the two sides.
EU leaders gave the deal their backing after less than an hour of talks at today’s specially convened summit in Brussels.
In a brief summary published afterwards the Commission said it hoped for ‘as close as possible a partnership with the United Kingdom in the future.’
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier had warned before the summit started: “Now it’s time for everybody to take their responsibility. Everybody.”
Afterwards, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that the agreement was ‘the best possible’ and that the EU would not shift its position.
An eleventh-hour obstacle to the deal being approved was thrown up by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who raised objections over the status of Gibraltar.
But he dropped these after overnight talks when the UK clarified its legal interpretation of the wording of the withdrawal agreement.
The UK and European parliaments must now approve the legally-binding withdrawal agreement and a separate political declaration before it can take effect.
Parliament is scheduled to vote on it in early December and Labour, the SNP, the DUP and Tory rebels are expected to unite to vote against it.
May tweeted what she called ‘my letter to the nation’ after the deal was signed calling for the country to get behind the agreement.
She said the UK would now be out of ‘failed’ EU policies on agriculture and fishing and added: “It is a deal for a brighter future.”
European Parliament President Antonio Tajani told a summit press conference it would be ‘impossible’ to renegotiate the agreement even if UK MPs voted it down.
What the leaders said
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz: “It (the deal) will certainly not be renegotiated and there is no leeway.”
French President Emmanuel Macron: “It’s neither an opportunity to rejoice nor a day of mourning. It’s the choice of a sovereign people. It’s a time for dignity and responsibility.”
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar: “We spent two years trying to negotiate an agreement that protects our interests, our citizens and our economy, and I believe we have that.”