Brexit clock ticks: Three weeks to win over the public and parliament

The small peninsula attached to Spain is a major point of contention in Anglo Spanish relations

The small peninsula attached to Spain is a major point of contention in Anglo Spanish relations

Arriving for a special summit in Brussels on Sunday to vote on May's almost 600-page Withdrawal Agreement, which spells out the terms for Britain's exit on March 29, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said it was a "sad day".

EU Council President Donald Tusk, who has always said he would prefer Britain not to leave, said on the eve of the summit that "no-one will have reasons to be happy" when Brexit happens.

Spain had threatened to derail the summit after last-minute disagreements over Gibraltar - a British territory on the Iberian Peninsula - but these were resolved in negotiations Saturday.

The European Commission chief warned the United Kingdom parliament it should not count on any renegotiation ahead of Britain's departure in March, as European Union leaders on Sunday approved a landmark agreement on Britain's exit.

Meanwhile the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her minority government, threatened towithdraw their support for the Conservatives if the deal is agreed by the United Kingdom parliament.

"Spain is the physical and geographical gateway to Europe for Gibraltar", Picardo told the BBC.

Mr Picardo was reacting to Mr Sanchez' statement after news that a last-minute agreement had been reached to defuse the Brexit row over Gibraltar ahead of a crucial European Union summit on Sunday to rubber-stamp the draft Withdrawal Agreement.

Tusk has recommended the bloc approve the Brexit deal negotiated with Britain.

Deadline for civil service to trigger no-deal contingency planning, which is still a possible outcome.

In a stern message, he said Gibraltar would never renounce its British sovereignty and urged Mr Sanchez to "abandon the politics" on Gibraltar of Spanish dictator General Franco.

Pro-EU Conservative and former GP Sarah Wollaston said it was "deeply shocking" that the prime minister restated the discredited NHS funding claim.

In Scotland, first minister and leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party Nicola Sturgeon said, "This is a bad deal, driven by the PM's self defeating red lines and continual pandering to the right of her own party".

The last big obstacle to a deal was overcome on Saturday, when Spain lifted its objections over Gibraltar.

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Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose country is one of Britain's closest trading partners, praised May's handling of the hard negotiations and said he was confident that she could see the deal through parliament in the coming weeks.

The parliamentary vote is likely to take place in early-to-mid December.

CNN quoted Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez saying, "I have just told the head of state, the King, that Spain has reached an agreement over Gibraltar". Brexiteers think it will leave the United Kingdom tied too closely to European Union rules, while pro-Europeans say it will erect new barriers between Britain and the bloc - its neighbour and biggest trading partner.

This position was backed by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

He was referring to a 1986 agreement when Spain joined the bloc and had to adapt its Gibraltar policy to British policy within the EU.

That included a plan being hatched by close allies such as finance minister Philip Hammond and work and pensions minister Amber Rudd, reported The Sunday Times without citing sources.

Britain will leave the European Union on March 29 but remain inside the bloc's single market and be bound by its rules until the end of December 2020, while the two sides work out a new trade relationship.

Now British Prime Minister Theresa May faces the tough task of selling the deal to a skeptical U.K. Parliament.

She said that Brexit could be "a moment of renewal and reconciliation".

Tajani said a "large majority" of European parliamentarians supported the deal.

Conservatives could look to either unseat May as leader of the party, or try and amend the Brexit deal before bringing it for a second vote in parliament.

"Today has been a historic day", Merkel said after the meeting, a rare and unusual gathering of European leaders on a chilly Sunday morning in Brussels.

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