European Council meets in Brussels

A diplomatic tour de force, says Angela Merkel

The EU heads of state and government have approved the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration on the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom. Chancellor Angela Merkel declared, "In the view of the 27 member states a foundation has now been put in place for an orderly withdrawal and the establishment of future relations."

Chancellor Angela Merkel in Brussels

In Brussels, Chancellor Angela Merkel also praised the way EU member states have cooperated

Photo: Bundesregierung/Kugler

Speaking at a press conference in Brussels, Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "This is a historic day which leaves us with very mixed feelings." It is tragic that the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union after 45 years, but the EU naturally must respect the vote of the British people.

"Against this background, it is good that we now have a withdrawal agreement and a political declaration on future relations with the United Kingdom," declared the Chancellor.

Protection for EU citizens in the UK

Chancellor Angela Merkel said, "In the view of the 27 member states a foundation has now been put in place for an orderly withdrawal and the establishment of future relations." It is a diplomatic tour de force, she added, in an unprecedented situation.

Angela Merkel stressed that the Brexit agreement protects the rights of EU citizens living in the United Kingdom. And there is a guarantee that there will not be a hard border on the island of Ireland. "Now we have time to work on the details of the future relationship."

At a special European Council meeting called by Council President Donald Tusk the EU heads of state and government initially met without the United Kingdom, in what is known as the Article 50 format. The British Prime Minister Theresa May then joined them. The EU leaders approved the withdrawal agreement, completed by the Brexit negotiating teams on 13 November, and the political declaration on the future relations of the EU with the United Kingdom.

How will the agreement be ratified?

Following approval by the heads of state and government, the next step is for the withdrawal agreement to be ratified by the European Parliament and of course by the UK Parliament. The German Bundestag will be kept informed, but is not required to approve the agreement.

Continued close relations with the UK

Germany is, of course, interested in retaining a close partnership with the United Kingdom. On this point the German government agrees with the other 26 member states and the EU institutions.

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