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Brexit, a “pyrrhic victory” for May? Imposed Brexit agreement divides the government. EU Summit November 25

Yesterday evening the British PM persuaded her reluctant Cabinet to back a "consensual divorce” from the European Union with the opposition of several ministers. Widespread discontent from London to Northern Ireland. The answers of Tusk, Barnier and European Parliament

“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed”: May prefers to play it safe after last evening’S green light to the Brexit deal given by the British government. At the end of a five-hour meeting Premier Theresa May won Cabinet support and will address Parliament today. The 595-page document drafted by negotiators on both sides “covers all elements of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU: citizens’ rights, the financial settlement, a transition period, governance, Protocols on Ireland, Gibraltar and Cyprus, as well as a range of other separation issues”, the EU Commission clarified in a note. May had to renounce many expectations linked to a “hard Brexit” in order to avoid her Country’s isolation, but she paid the price of a divided government (Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Northern Ireland Minister Shailesh Vara have resigned today), the discontent of half of the Conservative party, the objections of the citizens of Northern Ireland as well as of the Scots – albeit for opposite reasons. “This has not been an easy decision”, Theresa May later exhaustedly remarked, but it acts “in the national interest.” From Brussels, MEP Nigel Farage hailed against “the worst agreement in history.”

“If nothing happens…” This morning Chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier had a meeting in Brussels with the President of the European Council Donald Tusk. In clear words, Tusk said he does not share “the prime minister’s enthusiasm about Brexit as such”, and described it as “a lose-lose situation” and that “our negotiations are only about damage control.” Tusk went on to illustrate the next steps: ” By the end of this week, the EU27 ambassadors will meet in order to share their assessment of the agreement. The Commission intends to agree the declaration about the future with the UK by Tuesday. Over the following 48 hours, the member states will have time to evaluate it.” Then, “if nothing extraordinary happens, we will hold a European Council meeting, in order to finalise and formalise the Brexit agreement. It will take place on Sunday 25th November.”

Decisive step forward. Today, EU Chief negotiator Michel Barnier will be reporting to the European Parliament, followed by a press conference with the President of the Assembly, Antonio Tajani and the spokesperson of the EP Brexit Steering Group European Guy Verhofstadt. “This agreement is a decisive and crucial step in concluding these negotiations”, said Michel Barnier. “Decisive progress have been made for an orderly withdrawal of Great Britain from the EU and to lay the grounds of future relations.” However, “there is still a lot of work. We still have a long and difficult road ahead of us.” The date of the “divorce” from the EU is on the horizon, set for May 29 2019, although after that day the UK will enter a “transition period” that ends in December 31 2020. Guy Verhofstadt remarked: “‘It is encouraging to see that we are moving towards a fair deal that should ensure an orderly withdrawal, including a backstop guaranteeing that there will be no hardening of the Northern Irish/Irish border and that the Good Friday Agreement will be safeguarded.” “This deal is a milestone towards a credible and sustainable future relationship between the EU and the UK.”“A capitulation.” At domestic level, the latest developments in Downing Street and the next steps of the Brexit hit front-page news. “May papers over the cracks and Cabinet backs the deal” titled the Times online describing a Premier who faced “party mutiny with the threat of ‘no Brexit.’” “A deal that pleases no one is the best May could get” is the comment on the The Times.”This is not a compromise- it’s a capitulation by our Prime Minister”, Nick Thimothy writes on the Telegraph: “British compromises were inevitable. But the proposal presented to Cabinet is a capitulation”, “not only to Brussels, but to the fears of the British negotiators themselves, who have shown by their actions that they never believed Brexit can be a success.” “Theresa May admits Brexit can be stopped by new referendum as cabinet back draft deal”, titles the Independent today. The Guardian’s live updates on Brexit: “Tusk confirms November summit on ‘lose-lose situation'”, with the following headline in the paper edition: “Theresa May’s Brexit plan: a split cabinet, a split party and a split nation.” The paper edition of the Daily mirror defined it a “War cabinet”, with eleven ministers “who rejected the proposal and 40 Tory rebels plotting to bring her down.” The Financial Times: “May braced for backlash after ferocious Brexit battle”; “Back May or sack May” is the headline on the free newspaper Metro.

Difficult days. In Northern Ireland the headline of the Belfast Telegraph is “Theresa May gets Cabinet backing for draft Brexit deal but ‘there will be difficult days ahead”, commenting: “Cabinet Brexit deal victory a pyrrhic one – Parliament is the real battleground” that awaits May today. In the same newspaper the comments section titles: ” ‘We won’t let EU break Northern Ireland – we didn’t let the IRA.” On this side of the Channel, Le Figaro: “Theresa May imposed” the deal, while Le Monde speaks of May’s “success.” The German daily Die Zeit reports the news with the comment of Foreign Minister Heiko Maas: “After months of uncertainty, we finally have a clear signal from Britain on how the leave could take place.” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:” The Brexit compromise agreement binds the British to the EU.” Spanish daily El Pais titles: ” Spain and UK must cooperate on Gibraltar under Brexit agreement”, explaining, “the protocol on Gibraltar creates a brand new cooperation framework between London and Madrid to address relations between the Rock and the surrounding Spanish territory.”

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