After a year and a half of negotiations, European Union leaders have finally endorsed a plan for the United Kingdom’s departure. That doesn’t mean they like the deal.
As reactions to this latest development in the long, convoluted Brexit process show, people on all sides become ever-more unsatisfied the closer the UK gets to actually fulfilling its promise to leave. Within the EU, nearly every major leader responded to the new agreement—which sets some of the terms for the UK’s departure—with sadness and dismay.
Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, said the latest agreement “is neither a time of jubilation nor of celebration. It’s a sad moment, and it’s a tragedy.”
Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany: “My feelings are very divided. I feel very sad, but at the same time I feel a sense of relief.”
Pedro Sánchez, prime minister of Spain: “With the departure of the UK we all lose, especially the UK.”
Mark Rutte, prime minister of the Netherlands: “Nobody is winning. We are all losing because of the UK leaving.”
French president Emmanuel Macron: “We must draw all the consequences that show that the European Union has a fragile side, it can be improved…It shows that our Europe needs to be rebuilt.”
Antonio Tajani, president of European Parliament: “Today is not a good day.”
It’s not just the EU, though. May now has to turn her attention to domestic politicians, in order to get the agreement approved by parliament. There’s no guarantee that will happen. The deal faces opposition on all sides, with some against Brexit in the first place, and others criticizing the deal for not creating a clean enough break with the EU.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, which has promised to oppose the deal: May’s Brexit deal is a “miserable failure of negotiation that leaves us with the worst of all worlds.”
Boris Johnson, Brexiteer and former foreign secretary: Britain is “on the verge of making a historic mistake.”
Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s government: “What Theresa may has succeeded in doing is putting a proposition on the table which is worse than no deal and worse than staying in the EU, whatever else is put on the table.”
Tony Blair, former prime minister: “Literally why are we doing it?”
For her part, May has come up with a somewhat fatalistic line to sell her deal, not calling it “terrific” or “great” but “the only deal possible.” Her fellow British politicians seem to think there are, in fact, other possibilities.