EU leaders have given their backing to Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal in a significant step forward towards the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.
At a summit in Brussels, the EU’s 27 heads of state pledged unanimous support to the terms of the lengthy withdrawal agreement, alongside a 26-page political declaration that set out the basis of the UK’s future relationship with the EU.
In a statement, the EU’s leaders stated their intention to build “as close as possible a partnership” with the UK after Brexit, but also warned that they would be “permanently seized” in future negotiations by the principle that countries outside the bloc cannot enjoy the same rights as those within.
Further statements made on Sunday morning by the 27 EU leaders stated their intention to maintain the rights of European fleets to fish in British waters.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has advised MPs to vote on the deal that May has set out, explaining that voting it down could damage future relations.
“Now it is time for everybody to take their responsibilities, everybody,” Barnier said. The deal was “a necessary step to build the trust between the UK and the EU” to build “an unprecedented and ambitious future partnership”.
Jean-Claude Junker, the European commission president, said: “I would vote in favour of this deal because this is the best deal possible for Britain.
“I’m sad because watching the UK … leaving the EU is not a moment for jubilation but a moment of deep sadness and we make everything possible in order to have this divorce being as smooth as possible. but there are no smooth divorces.
“This is the deal, it’s the best deal possible and the EU will not change its fundamental position when it comes to this issue so I do think the British parliament – because this is a wise parliament – will ratify this deal.”