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27 EU Leaders Endorse Brexit Deal


British Prime Minister Theresa May (file photo)

Following 20 months of negotiations, European Union leaders have endorsed two key documents on Britain's departure from the bloc next year.

The leaders of the 27 states staying on together after Brexit gave their backing on November 25 during a Brussels summit that lasted less than an hour.

They approved a 585-page agreement setting out the terms on which Britain will leave the EU on March 29, 2019, and a political declaration outlining London and Brussels' shared goals for their future relationship.

However, the deal still needs to be passed by the British parliament, and many lawmakers have stated they will vote against it, including deputies in Prime Minister Theresa May's own Conservative Party.

Calling the agreement she has negotiated with EU officials "the only possible deal," May said parliament will vote on it "before Christmas."

Ahead of the Brussels summit, May said in a letter to the British public that the deal promises a "brighter future" for Britain and leaving the EU will be "a moment of renewal and reconciliation for our whole country."

The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, said it was "the best deal possible" for Britain and Europe.

The Brussels summit was assured after a last-minute agreement to meet Madrid’s demands on possible talks about the future of Gibraltar.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on November 24 stepped back from his threat of an effective veto on the deal after Britain and EU officials provided written guarantees on the issue of possible Gibraltar talks in the future.

The breakthrough came after the British government wrote to the European Council to confirm that it would not interpret its withdrawal treaty as meaning that a future EU-U.K. trade treaty would automatically apply to Gibraltar.

Britain captured Gibraltar, a 6.7-square-kilometer area at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, during a war with Spain more than 300 years ago.

Now considered a British overseas territory, Gibraltar is home to a historically strategic British naval base and about 30,000 residents.

But Spain asserts an irredentist claim to Gibraltar and wants a bilateral agreement with the United Kingdom over its sovereignty.

Britain has said it “will never enter an agreement” on Gibraltar’s sovereignty unless the government and the people of Gibraltar itself also agree. No political party or pressure group in Gibraltar supports union with Spain.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa
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