European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters that this was the “best possible” deal after the 27 other EU leaders formally endorsed a treaty setting terms for British withdrawal in March and an outline of a future EU-UK trade pact.
May used a post-summit news conference to make a sales pitch for her plan, telling television viewers at home that it was the “only possible deal”, offering control of UK borders and budgets while maintaining close cooperation with EU regulations that was good for business and the security of the broader region.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the bloc’s veteran guiding force, echoed that unwillingness to speculate on what she called a “historic day” that was both “tragic and sad”.
The 27 leaders took barely half an hour to rubber-stamp the 600-page withdrawal treaty, aimed at an orderly exit on March 29 to be followed by two to three years of a status-quo transition period. The outline of a future trading and security partnership was just 26 pages long. May’s critics say it leaves Britain tied to EU regulations that it will no longer have a say in setting.
Britain could also simply crash out on March 29. Both sides have been making preparations for such a “no deal” scenario. The pound has strengthened since the deal came together over the past 10 days, but companies and investors remain nervous.
Britain’s 300-year-old naval base in Gibraltar on Spain’s southern coast, had also threatened to derail plans. But Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said he was satisfied with guarantees on Saturday (November 24) of a say in Gibraltar’s future, saying on Sunday that Spain wanted to claim a share of sovereignty over “The Rock”.