Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 July 2019

Britain and EU agree Brexit deal

Prime Minister Theresa May's cabinet will be briefed on the deal through Tuesday night

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May has started briefing ministerial colleagues on a Brexit deal. AFP
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May has started briefing ministerial colleagues on a Brexit deal. AFP

Britain and the EU have agreed a draft blueprint for the UK’s departure from the European Union, officials have confirmed.

A spokesperson for Downing Street said that Prime Minister Theresa May would brief her Cabinet ministers one by one through Tuesday night, before a special cabinet meeting at 2pm on Wednesday to review the deal and "decide on next steps".

The apparent breakthrough came after months of protracted talks in Brussels, with measures to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland being the main obstacle to a deal.

News of the deal was greeted by a mixture of relief and condemnation by long-standing critics of the deal who suggested that the agreement gave away too many powers to Brussels.

Eurosceptic opponents promised to scuttle it in parliament, where, ever since conceding ground in a snap election last year, May has had to rely on the support of 10 Northern Irish lawmakers for her majority.

"The trick will be for Theresa May, can she satisfy everyone? It is going to be a very, very hard sell, I would have thought, but let's wait and see the actual detail," Democratic Unionist Party Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds said.

Details that emerged last night appeared to open the way for further ministerial departures after months of bruising infighting within Mrs May's government.

Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary and the most prominent campaigner to leave the EU, claimed that the deal reduced the UK to the level of a "vassal state".

Sources told the Irish press that a deal was agreed at about 9pm on Monday night in Brussels, then sent to Mrs May for review. They said the text of the deal was “stable”, though added that "further shuttling" was to be done between Westminster and Brussels.

The final sticking points were believed to have been the situation around the Irish border, and the so-called backstop – the arrangement designed to confront the prospect of no deal being struck. The deal is thought to include “special provisions” for Northern Ireland.

Eurosceptic MPs were quick to condemn the leaked arrangements of the deal, with chief Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg saying that "white flags" of surrender had gone up.

He said the deal was a "failure to deliver on Brexit" and made it difficult to "trust anything that comes out of Downing Street" again.

Johnson said the deal frustrated the will of the people and makes a nonsense of Brexit and the referendum. He urged his parliamentary colleagues to vote against the deal.

“We are going to stay in the customs union on this deal, we’re going to stay in large parts of the single market… that means it’s vassal-state stuff.

"It’s the first time in 1,000 years that parliament will not have a say over the laws that governs this country.

"It is utterly unacceptable to anybody who believe in democracy,” he added.

Britain is set to leave the EU on the March 29, 2019.


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Updated: November 14, 2018 10:49 AM