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EU Leaders Reach Consensus over “Divorce Deal” with UK

While it was widely predicted that EU leaders would sign off on the withdrawal deal at Sunday’s summit, it apparently took merely 40 minutes for them to endorse the almost 600 pages of legal text (the withdrawal agreement) and the accompanying 20-page declaration for the EU's future relationship with the UK.

Calling it a sad day, the president of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker added (perhaps by way of a warning) that it was the “only deal possible”. The warning could well have been addressed to UK MPs who may still be of the (optimistic) view that they can achieve a better one in December, by voting against the current one. UK Prime Minister Theresa May, for her part, has stridently urged both Leave and Remain voters to support the agreement. However, even she has admitted that it involved compromises from the UK and EU sides. 

The government’s foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has also warned that “nothing could be ruled out” if Mrs May loses the UK’s parliamentary vote, including the possibility of the government caving in and Mrs. May being booted out.

Despite President Juncker’s gloomy words of warning and sadness (he also stated that nobody should be “raising champagne glasses” at the UK’s decision to leave the EU club), the Lithuanian President, Dalia Grybauskaite, opined that there could be a number of possible outcomes if the UK Parliament voted to reject the deal. Such outcomes could include an extension to the negotiations, or even another referendum among the British people. On the other hand, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar echoed President Juncker when he stated that “any other deal really only exists in people's imagination”.

As for Mrs. May’s critics at home, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn responded to Sunday's summit by proclaiming the deal to be “the worst of all worlds”. He has reiterated that Labour would oppose it, but would work with others "to block a no deal outcome" and ensure “a sensible deal” would be reached, but without giving any details. As for former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, he said that he would find it “very, very difficult” to support the agreement as it currently appeared. The Scottish (SNP) leader, Nicola Sturgeon, who is a staunch Remainer, felt that the agreement was a “bad deal”. In her view, the UK Parliament should seek “better alternatives”. These would include, for her, staying on in the single market and the EU-UK customs union permanently.

It is also reported that according to an analysis made on behalf of the People's Vote campaign, the leave deal would leave the UK £100bn a year worse off by 2030, when compared to staying on in the EU as a full-fledged member. The People's Vote campaign is a particularly large voice of Remainers, demanding another referendum on Brexit.

The UK Parliament will, it is expected, vote on the withdrawal agreement before Christmas, possibly on 12 December. The vote probably remains Mrs. May’s biggest challenge to date, as the main political parties – Labour, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, the DUP – as well as many Conservatives MPs, are still set to vote against it.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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