Published: Sun, November 25, 2018
Money | By Arnold Ball

Brexit: Portugal backs Spain on Gibraltar clause

Brexit: Portugal backs Spain on Gibraltar clause

It took leaders a matter of minutes at Sunday's summit in Brussels to endorse a withdrawal agreement that settles Britain's divorce bill, protects the rights of United Kingdom and European Union citizens hit by Brexit and keeps the Irish border open.

May hopes to leave Brussels on Sunday with the terms of British withdrawal on March 29 and a comprehensive concept for future Britain-EU relations settled with the bloc.

Both sides have been making preparations for such a "no deal" scenario, though the European Union insists Britain has more to lose.

At a special summit in Brussels that was nearly derailed by a row over Gibraltar, the other 27 leaders will gather to sign off the agreement before May joins them to mark the milestone.

Addressing the calls on her to renegotiate from pro-Brexit Conservatives and others, the Prime Minister gave her own warning during Sunday's press conference, remarking: "I am making the case for this deal to members of Parliament, and I think the point that Jean-Claude Juncker was making that has been reiterated by others, was that if people think somehow there's another negotiation to be done, that isn't the case". "Now it is time for everybody to take their responsibilities, everybody", he said.

In an invitation letter to the leaders of the 27 member states, Tusk said "no-one will have reasons to be happy" on Sunday, but concluded: "I believe that we have finally found the best possible compromise".

Theresa May's Brexit plans are back on track with the European Union after the United Kingdom prime minister agreed Saturday to meet Spain's demands regarding the territory of Gibraltar.

"Nobody is winning. We are all losing because of the United Kingdom leaving", Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said. Whatever happens after Brexit - good or bad - will be because of Theresa May.

May insists her deal delivers the 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 neighbors.

Maybe it is a "given" in Brussels, but in Britain that is another matter altogether.

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In a tweet, he quoted Queen's song Friends Will Be Friends to sum up the mood for Sunday's summit, saying: "Friends will be friends right till the end".

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte added: "Overall, I think this is the max that we can all do, both Theresa May and her government as well as the European Union". Asked for her preference, she said only: "We would like to see everything settled as soon as possible".

'The choice is not between this deal and "no-deal", despite what the government spin machine may say.

She raised the possibility of a second referendum, a general election or a request to reopen negotiations.

According to Tusk's invitation, the withdrawal agreement protects citizens' rights and the Northern Ireland peace process, while ensuring Britain will keep paying European Union dues during a transition period. The deal would allow an extension of "up to one or two years" should the negotiations over "the future relationship" not be completed by the end of 2020.

Mr Raab said the current agreement was unlikely to be passed by the Commons, and that ministers should contemplate a no deal. European Parliament approval is nearly certain.

"So I will take this deal back to the House of Commons confident we have achieved the best deal available and full of optimism about the future of our country".

In a sign of the trouble ahead for the prime minister, former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith told Sky News today it would be "very, very difficult" to support the deal arguing "far too much has been given to the EU".

And a senior Labour lawmaker Tony Lloyd said there was a "coalition of the willing" in the Parliament ready to reject May's deal and support a softer Brexit. Then, Parliament will hold a decisive vote on whether to accept or reject the accord before Christmas.

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