Leaders of the European Union approved Theresa May’s brexit deal on Sunday – and in a warning to British lawmakers, said it’s the “best and only deal possible.”
Amid criticism of the deal from lawmakers on all sides of Britain’s EU debate, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said the U.K. couldn’t hope to negotiate better terms before its departure in March.
“I am totally convinced this is the only deal possible,” he said. “Those who think that by rejecting the deal that they would have a better deal will be disappointed the first seconds after the rejection.”
British prime minister Theresa May said Sunday that the deal “delivered for the British people” and set the UK “on course for a prosperous future.”
“This is the deal that is on the table,” she proclaimed. “It is the best possible deal. It is the only deal.”
May must now focus on selling the deal to British members of parliament — a hefty task considering the opposition from both pro-EU and pro-Brexit lawmakers.
May said Parliament would vote before Christmas, and argued lawmakers had a duty “to deliver Brexit” as voters decided in a 2016 referendum.
“The British people don’t want to spend any more time arguing about Brexit,” she said. “They want a good deal done that fulfils the vote and allows us to come together again as a country.”
May’s overcame her biggest obstacle to EU approval on Saturday, when Span lifted objections over Gibraltar, a disputed British territory.
It took EU leaders a matter of minutes at Sunday’s summit in Brussels to endorse a withdrawal agreement that settles Britain’s divorce bill, protects the rights of U.K. and EU citizens hit by Brexit and keeps the Irish border open.
“A country leaving the EU doesn’t give rise to the raising of Champagne glasses or applause,” Juncker said. “It is a sad day and everybody who spoke today during the European Council attempted to express their sadness.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said her feelings were “ambivalent, with sadness but on the other hand also some kind of relief that we made it to this point.”
“I think we managed to make a diplomatic piece of art,” she said.
May said she wasn’t sad, because Britain and the EU would remain “friends and neighbors.”
“I recognize some European leaders are sad at this moment, but also some people back at home in the U.K. will be sad at this moment,” she told reporters Sunday in Brussels.
May added that she was “full of optimism” about Britain’s future.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.