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Britain’s May Announces Agreement With Europe on Brexit

Britain says it reached agreement during overnight talks with the European Commission on the draft text of a political declaration laying out the terms for Britain’s “smooth and orderly” exit from the European Union.

Prime Minister Theresa May told reporters in front of her No. 10 Downing Street residence she had briefed her Cabinet on the agreement and would make a statement to the House of Commons later on Thursday, at which time details may be released.

May said the deal “delivers” on the will of the British people as expressed in a divisive Brexit referendum in June 2016. “It brings back control of our borders, our money and our laws, and it does so by protecting our jobs, protecting our security and protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom.”

 

The overnight talks followed a meeting Tuesday between May and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission. May said the two instructed their negotiating teams to work through the night if necessary to reach an agreement.

The deal must still be approved by the leaders of the individual EU states at a special EU Council meeting on Sunday. May also faces a challenge in getting the Brexit agreement through her own parliament, where many members feel it does not go far enough to break ties with the continent.

A last-minute complication arose this week when the Spanish government threatened to veto any agreement unless it received assurances on future negotiations over Gibralter, a British outpost that Spain sees as rightfully part of its territory.

In her statement to reporters, May said she had spoken Wednesday evening to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and is “confident that on Sunday we will be able to agree on a deal that delivers for the whole United Kingdom family, including Gibraltar.”

Several other EU governments objected to earlier outlines of the deal because they believe it gives Britain a competitive advantage by not tying it closely enough to EU regulations, workers’ rights, and environmental standards, potentially lowering the production costs of British goods.

British critics of the deal, meanwhile, believe it binds Britain too closely to Europe-wide regulations while leaving it with no say in formulating those directives. They also have objected to proposed language that would bar Britain from negotiating trade pacts with other countries.

A major concern throughout the negotiations has been how to maintain a free flow of goods between Northern Ireland, which is part of Britain, and the Republic of Ireland which is an EU member. The opening of that border helped to end decades of conflict between partisans of the two populations.

May leads a minority government and relies on the votes of a dozen Northern Ireland lawmakers who deeply oppose the divorce deal as well. To demonstrate their power, they withheld their support in important budget votes twice this week.

VOA’s Jamie Dettmer contributed to this report.

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