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Another day, another Brexit summit - but this one will show us how united the EU is

Is a deal done yet, you might ask. The answer is, as always, sort of.

Image: Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

HERE WE ARE on the eve of another EU summit – so what’s this one for and why does it matter?

After significant progress in Brexit talks in the past two weeks, the leaders of 27 EU member states are meeting tomorrow to decide on whether they’ll endorse the deal that was struck between the UK and EU negotiating teams after two years of talks.

The deal was a catalyst for the resignation of Brexiteer MPs, including Dominic Raab as Brexit Secretary (meaning he was in charge of Brexit talks in Brussels), who described it as “May’s deal” and added that they’d be better off within the EU than to leave under those terms.

One commentator described May’s deal as “Frankenstein’s monster, a broken, grotesque invention, stumbling around, half-alive, tormented by anger against its creator”.

Nevertheless, May has secured her Cabinet’s backing to the deal, and said that there’s no going back to no Brexit.

This means that two things need to happen next: the EU needs to endorse the deal, and the UK House of Commons needs to hold a meaningful vote too if this deal is going to pass and allow for a Brexit deal.

The first of those is happening tomorrow at 9.30am. The 27 leaders of the EU member states will decide whether or not to endorse the Brexit deal.

Although Spain’s Prime Minister threatened to veto the deal if they did not get enough say in what happens to Gibraltar, this isn’t possible at this stage. They can choose not to endorse it, but just a simple majority is needed from the European Council. They could, however, veto a trade deal once it’s agreed with the UK a few years down the line.

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council (that’s the leaders of the EU 27), said that Brexit is a “lose-lose” ahead of the talks, acknowledging the concerns expressed by some member states including Spain, France and the Netherlands, about what’s been agreed so far.

Commitments to Ireland

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will also be at the summit, of course, and will be keen to get an agreement and the backing from other member states on the Brexit deal, which contains “strong language and commitments to Ireland”, as Tánaiste Simon Coveney put it.

Despite these concerns, which are sure to be aired during the two-and-a-half hour debate and meeting with Theresa May, the deal and political declaration on the future relationship are expected to pass tomorrow.

If that is agreed May starts the process of getting MPs to back the deal in the House of Commons: as it stands now, most are currently against it. The vote will take just over two weeks from now, before the parliamentary break that begins 21 December.

The EU treaties of Rome and Maastricht took around 40 days to be approved in the House of Commons and the House of Lords. There remain between 60 to 70 days of parliamentary session between Sunday’s summit and 29 March.

What happens after that?

If the House of Commons approves it, it then it goes to the European Parliament to be ratified. The members of the European Parliament will likely await the green light of the British legislature to launch their own ratification procedure.

The ratification vote should take place at the beginning of 2019 but it could theoretically wait until March 28, the last day of the parliamentary session before Britain’s withdrawal takes effect.

After its ratification by the European Parliament, the withdrawal treaty must be approved by the EU member states by so-called qualified majority: 72% of the 27 member countries representing 65% of the population of these countries.

This approval will be given by ministers from the 27 capitals meeting as the European Council.

- with reporting from AFP

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