BREAKING: 27 EU leaders approve Brexit deal with the UK.
The UK’s withdrawal agreement from the European Union has been approved by EU leaders, its chief official Donald Tusk has announced.
The 27 leaders gave it their backing after less than an hour’s discussion in Brussels.
Mr Tusk signalled on Saturday that the deal would be approved after Spain withdrew last-minute concerns over Gibraltar.
The deal needs to be approved by the UK Parliament, with many MPs opposed.
Mr Tusk, the president of the European Council, broke the news on Twitter.
It follows more than 18 months of negotiations between the two sides, which began when the UK triggered Article 50 in the wake of the 2016 referendum leave vote.
The UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019
The UK Parliament is expected to vote on the deal in early December but its approval is by no means guaranteed, with Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP, the DUP and many Conservatives MPs set to vote against.
Prime Minister Theresa May has appealed to the public to get behind the agreement, arguing it is the best deal she could have struck and honours the result of the Brexit referendum.
The EU leaders have approved the two key Brexit documents:
The EU withdrawal agreement: a 585-page, legally binding document setting out the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU. It covers the UK’s £39bn “divorce bill”, citizens’ rights and the Northern Ireland “backstop” – a way to keep the border with the Republic of Ireland open, if trade talks stall.The political declaration, which sets out what the UK and EU’s relationship may be like after Brexit – outlining how things like UK-EU trade and security will work.
There was no formal vote on Sunday, with the EU proceeding by consensus.
Before the meeting, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the UK’s departure was a “tragedy” for the EU but Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar said the deal allowed for an “orderly withdrawal”.