Comprehensive Post-Brexit Deal Drafted By Britain And EU

Nov 23, 2018
Originally published on November 23, 2018 6:29 am
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Britain's effort to leave the European Union forces the country to reckon with the many ways Britain has woven into Europe. More than 300 years ago during a war, the British obtained Gibraltar with its famous rock at the mouth of the Mediterranean.

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Spain has tried to get it back ever since. You can add that to the things Britain's prime minister must manage as she tries to get Europeans to agree to her Brexit plan this weekend. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has an overview.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: British Prime Minister Theresa May told her parliament yesterday a deal to take the United Kingdom out of the European Union is close.

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PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: The British people want this to be settled. They want a good deal that sets us on course for a brighter future. That deal is within our grasp, and I am determined to deliver it.

NELSON: The draft divorce agreement has two parts - a legally binding withdrawal agreement that's nearly 600 pages long and a 26-page political declaration on future relations. The Brexit deal provides a blueprint for future trade and security ties between the U.K. and EU, as well as addressing a sensitive border between Ireland which is in the EU, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K.

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MAY: The negotiations are now at a critical moment, and all our efforts must be focused on working with our European partners to bring this process to a final conclusion in the interests of all our people.

NELSON: If the U.K. were to leave the bloc next March without an agreement, it would severely disrupt trade, travel and business and cost tens of billions of dollars. But opposition to the deal in the U.K. is fierce. Jeremy Corbyn is the British Labor Party leader.

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JEREMY CORBYN: It's clear from this document that, indeed, nothing is agreed. This is the blindfold Brexit we all feared, a leap in the dark.

NELSON: There are EU concerns, as well. In a tweet, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez threatened to scuttle the agreement over Gibraltar, an enclave that the U.K. controls but that Spain claims as its own. He wrote, after my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain far away.

Spain can't technically veto the deal, but because Brexit is a highly sensitive topic, EU officials want all member states to be on board. Some in Brussels also worry May will try for a last-minute renegotiation of the draft deal when she meets with European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker the night before the summit.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been pretty adamant she won't go to the summit if the wording is still in limbo. But even if everything ends up going smoothly in Brussels, May's biggest challenge will be at home. Next month, she has to get the divorce treaty approved by her parliament. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.