"Ahead of us is the difficult process of ratification as well as further negotiations. But regardless of how it will all end, one thing is certain: we will remain friends until the end of days, and one day longer" - Statement by EU Council President Donald Tusk 25 November 2018.
On 22 January 1972, at the Egmont Palace in Brussels, Prime Minister Edward Heath signed the Treaty of Accession taking the United Kingdom into the European Communities with effect from 1 January 1973. Denmark and Ireland also acceded to the communities at the same time. Norway had participated in the accession negotiations but did not join as a result of an adverse national referendum. Norway also rejected membership in 1994.
At the time,
accession was far from universally accepted in the UK and there is much to be said for the view expressed by former diplomat Sir Crispin Tickell that the UK never fully played the leading role that could have been possible - The Guardian 25 June 2016. Instead, as the original European Communities transformed into the present-day European Union, a rather cool and, at times, rocky relationship has prevailed culminating in the divisive 2016 referendum and the overall "leave" vote. Whilst an overall majority (51.9% to 48.1%) favoured leaving it was also clear that Scotland (62% to 38%) and Northern Ireland (55.8% to 44.2%) wished to remain.
The referendum commenced the process of exiting the EU and disentanglement from over 46 years of what Lord Denning MR famously described as the "incoming tide."
Hamlyn Lecture III - 27 November 2013).
Today, in Brussels, the European Council endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and approved the Political Declaration both of which pave the UK's departure route and future relationship with the EU. Full details of the Council meeting and the documents may be seen via the EU Council website.
As a matter of law, the withdrawal agreement is not yet legally binding. The UK government may not ratify the agreement unless it is approved by Parliament in accordance with the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 section 13. The days ahead are likely to be very difficult. Rejection of the "deal" cannot be ruled out if the political reaction so far is anything to go by but what would happen if the "deal" is rejected is far from clear at the moment. One inescapable fact is that, unless the Brexit process is stopped, the UK will leave on 29 March 2019.
For me, today is tinged with sadness and I have always preferred to remain in the EU. Leaving is a monumental act of national stupidity - (see, for example, Long Term Economic Forecast
) - and appears to me to be all the more so on the problematic terms endorsed at Brussels today.
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Outlines of the withdrawal agreement and political declaration may be seen in previous posts.
Draft Withdrawal Agreement - November 2018 - No.1
Draft Withdrawal Agreement - November 2018 - No.2 - Preamble and Common Provisions
Draft Withdrawal Agreement - November 2018 - No.3 - Transition
Draft Withdrawal Agreement - November 2018 - No.4 - CJEU Role, Joint Committee, Dispute settlement
Draft Withdrawal Agreement - November 2018 - No.5 - Part 2 Citizens' Rights
Draft Withdrawal Agreement - November 2018 - No.6 - Parts 3 (Separation) and Five (Financial)
Draft Withdrawal Agreement - November 2018 - No.7 - Protocol on Gibraltar
Draft Withdrawal Agreement - November 2018 - No.8 - Protocol on the Sovereign Base Areas Cyprus
Draft Withdrawal Agreement - November 2018 - No.9 - Northern Ireland
Draft Political Declaration - November 2018