EU leaders endorse Brexit deal

LONDON

A new Brexit deal announced on Thursday has been endorsed by the EU leaders, President of the European Council Donald Tusk said.

In a joint press conference in Brussels with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, Tusk said the EU has endorsed the deal which looks like “very close to the final stretch”.

Tusk said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal avoids “chaos” between the EU and U.K., but admitted his “sadness” because of Brexit and expressed hope that the “U.K. will return one day”.

Juncker said the agreement would protect the rights of citizens and the EU has always prioritizes the people.

The agreement would not be possible without the contribution from the Irish premier, he added.

Varadkar for his part also expressed his sadness about Brexit, saying it is like an “old friend going on a journey”. He said there will always be a place for the U.K. if it returns to the union.

He said he “has seen the unity of the EU” during the past two years, and “what it can achieve if it stands together”.

“This is a lesson for the future,” he added.

Varadkar said Ireland and the EU’s objectives have been met as citizens’ rights have been protected, a financial settlement will be in place and there will be no hard border in Ireland.

Also speaking at the conference, Barnier said he very much “regrets” Brexit; however, it was a sovereign choice of the U.K. and he respects it.

In a separate press conference, Johnson described the agreement as “a great deal” not only for the U.K. but also for the EU.

He said the U.K. can now start building relations with the EU.

Johnson said there is “a very good case” for MPs to back the deal.

Britain and the EU earlier on Thursday said they reached a new Brexit deal ahead of the EU Council summit starting today.

“Where there is a will, there is a deal – we have one!” Juncker said on Twitter.

“It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions. I recommend that EUCO [Commission] endorses this deal,” he wrote.

Confirming the agreement, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also took to Twitter.

“We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control — now Parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday so we can move on to other priorities like the cost of living, the NHS [health service], violent crime, and our environment,” he wrote from Brussels, the EU’s capital.

Johnson will bring the deal back to the British parliament on Saturday for a meaningful vote. “Let’s get Brexit done and lead this country forward,” Johnson later tweeted.

New deal

The new deal is similar to the one reached by Theresa May, Johnson’s predecessor, with some changes to the problematic “backstop” issue.

Under the deal, the U.K. would continue with the EU rules through the end of 2020, pay a divorce bill of £39 billion ($50 billion), and U.K. and EU citizens’ rights would be protected.

But Northern Ireland would remain in the EU’s customs zone for a period of four years, a period which could be ended or extended by the decision of the local assembly every four years.

The new deal would create a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. in the Irish Sea, but a hard border on the island of Ireland would be avoided.
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