“Today’s agreement on the terms of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU is cause for relief not celebration. The UK Government has had the good sense not to listen those who were urging Britain to cast aside its legal obligations to an organisation to which it has belonged for more than 40 years. To have reneged on those obligations would have been to trash the UK’s reputation in the world.

“It is also an overdue recognition of the plight of citizens of other EU countries who have been living and working in the UK for many years. It is a recognition that, as a simple act of humanity, should have been accorded to them immediately after the referendum. Instead, they have had to endure 18 months of deep uncertainty.

“The minimal remaining role accorded the European Court of justice, that is time-limited, is nothing more than common sense.

“The more difficult task lies ahead. The commitments to the island of Ireland – north and the Republic – remain an unsolved conundrum. But a way will have to be found to honour those commitments in the interests of peace, security and prosperity for all.

“It remains the case that the benefits to the UK to be set against the cost, disruption and distraction of leaving the EU, are likely to be very small indeed.”

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