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The Brexit deal put forward by Prime Minister, Theresa May, has been signed off by EU leaders, effectively ending the first phase of negotiations and paving the way for the planned transition period. 

At a special EU summit on Sunday 25 November, the EU27 took under an hour to formally approve the 585-page draft withdrawal treaty and a 26-page political declaration outlining the future UK-EU relationship. 

Next steps

Mrs May now has two weeks to convince the UK Parliament to formally agree the deal to secure an orderly Brexit. 

To progress further, the treaty still needs to pass a “meaningful vote” in the House of Commons, expected to take place in the second week of December. If approved, the deal will go through the legislative process to become ratified in law as the EU Withdrawal Bill. 

Mrs May has warned MPs that rejecting the deal could risk going “back to square one” and plunging the country into “more division and uncertainty”.  While there is no set path for what will happen if it does not get enough parliamentary support, potential outcomes include more negotiations, a change in leadership, a general election, another referendum, or leaving with no deal at all in March 2019. 

European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, joined other EU leaders in hinting that there would be no chance of further renegotiations, warning British MPs that "this is the best deal possible... the only deal possible ". 

If agreed by the UK Parliament, the deal would go back to the European Council and European Parliament on 18 December to be finalised in early 2019, and enabling the transition period to begin on 29 March 2019.

Has the deal changed?

The signed-off treaty does not significantly differ from the arrangements informally agreed during negotiations earlier this year. This means that the transition period is set to last until 2020 (or longer), and the citizens’ rights agreement will ensure settled residents maintain the right to remain and access existing benefits. See more about the deal

However, there was a last minute adjustment to the wording on Gibraltar following threats from Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, to reject the deal. The draft treaty now guarantees Madrid a place at the negotiating table and veto rights over future agreements concerning Gibraltar. 

Keen to gather public support, the UK government has published '40 reasons to back the Brexit deal’. It has also issued a letter from the Prime Minister to the nation in which Mrs May asserts she “will be campaigning with my heart and soul to win that vote and to deliver this Brexit deal, for the good of our United Kingdom and all of our people”. 

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