Theresa May has agreed a draft divorce agreement with the EU and will today present it to her Cabinet in a three-hour ‘make or break’ meeting.
Last night, leaked details of the agreement included that EU chiefs have conceded Britons will not need visas to travel to Europe after Brexit.
The other leaks surrounded the issue of the backstop, the terms Britain will automatically adopt if a trade deal is not agreed by 2020.
Theresa May has agreed a draft divorce agreement with the EU and will today present it to her Cabinet in a three-hour ‘make or break’ meeting
Michel Barnier (pictured in Brussels this week) seemed to make a bid to bounce the UK into a deal, after he briefed EU ambassadors a deal was ‘largely’ done
The EU dropped its demand for Northern Ireland to remain in the customs union without the rest of the UK, which would create a border in the Irish Sea.
Instead the customs union would apply indefinitely to the whole of the UK.
The UK would not be able to walk away from the arrangement but there will be an ‘independent panel’ to decide when it could end.
The panel would be made up of British and EU representatives as well as independent adjudicators.
It will review progress on a transition deal in July 2019 and decide if the UK is ready to switch to a free trade deal, transfer to the backstop or extend the transition period until 2021, reported the Guardian.
DUP Leader Arlene Foster and Deputy Leader Nigel Dodds talk to the media
Left: Chris Grayling. Right: Philip Hammond. Moderate Tories last night accused leading Brexiteers of ‘throwing their toys out of the pram’
The Daily Telegraph reported that the European Court of Justice would have a role in deciding when the backstop would end, something that would infuriate Eurosceptics.
Even though the backstop would apply to the whole of the UK, the EU is understood to have insisted that Northern Ireland has a ‘deeper relationship’ with the EU in terms of regulations.
This could be a red line for the DUP whose ten MPs that prop up Mrs May’s government have said they will not accept different treatment of Northern Ireland.
Under the backstop, the fishing sector will not be part of the customs union.
This is because Britain has refused to guarantee EU ships access to British waters after Brexit and the EU does not want British fisherman to sell without tariffs or quotas to the EU market until a deal is reached on reciprocal access to waters.
Mrs May has agreed to sign the UK up to certain rules that keep it on a ‘level playing field’ with the EU during the backstop to prevent unfair competition.
These include EU rules on state aid, environment rules such as renewable energy targets and employment laws including the maligned working-time directive, reported the Financial Times. They also encompass certain tax laws.
It is these stringent requirements – some of the harshest imposed on any state outside the single market – that led Boris Johnson to say Britain would become a ‘vassal state’ taking EU laws without a say in shaping them.
It is worth remembering, though, that this scenario is a last resort and only comes into play if a trade deal is not agreed by 2020.
Mrs May now needs to convince her Cabinet that she has secured a good deal and then get it through Parliament.
If she overcomes her critics, the EU could approve Britain’s terms in a summit on 25 November.
If Eurosceptics and others vote down the deal, Mrs May will have to go back to the drawing board, increasing the likelihood of a much-feared no-deal Brexit in March.
Last night it emerged that even if this does happen, the EU will not refuse to let planes from Britain land on European soil as had been feared.
A draft Brexit deal agreed – but how WILL Theresa May persuade her Cabinet, Brussels and Parliament to back it (and save her job)?
Theresa May (pictured at the Lord Mayor’s Banquet on Monday) has struck a Brexit deal with Brussels – but now has to sell it to her Cabinet and then Parliament
Theresa May has struck a Brexit deal with Brussels – but now has to sell it to her Cabinet and then Parliament.
Here is how events could develop now a draft agreement has been reached.
Downing Street meetings, tonight
What will happen? The first step is for the Prime Minister to meet her ministers individually tonight. Members of the Cabinet will each visit No 10 for a personal briefing on what is in the deal.
Ministers were able to see most of the deal in a private ‘reading room’ last week – but not the most sensitive parts about the Irish border.
What if ministers do not agree? If Mrs May has miscalculated her position, rebellious ministers could even resign on the spot – potentially destroying the plans at the very first hurdle.
The Prime Minister can probably survive one or two resignations – but a mass walkout would almost certainly finish her.
What happens if they do? The Cabinet will reconvene tomorrow to formally discuss and accept the deal.
Special Cabinet, November 14
What will happen? The Cabinet will assemble in Downing Street tomorrow afternoon to formally make a decision about whether to adopt the plan.
Britain’s most senior minsters are likely to have an extensive and frank discussion about the terms of the deal. The meeting, in Downing Street’s Cabinet Room, will be the last opportunity to make clear criticism and disagreement.
What if Cabinet cannot agree? Anyone who cannot agree to the plan or who attacks it after will be expected to resign or face the sack.
Much like after the one on one meetings, no individual resignation will sink the Government but a raft of people quitting could collapse the Government.
Chances of no deal would rocket as there is little time to negotiate a new deal.
What if there is agreement? At the end of the meeting, Mrs May will likely sum up and ask her Cabinet to endorse the plan.
Once the Cabinet has agreed, they are all bound by a ‘collective responsibility’ to defend it in public.
The Cabinet (pictured in July) will assemble in Downing Street tomorrow afternoon to formally make a decision about whether to adopt the plan
Emergency EU Summit, Brussels, late November
What will happen? If the divorce package is agreed between the two sides, it will need to be signed off by EU leaders.
EU council president Donald Tusk will convene a summit where formal approval will be given by EU leaders. This is expected sometime between November 22 and 25.
Will the whole deal be agreed? The Brexit deal is due to come in two parts – a formal divorce treaty and a political declaration on what the final trade deal might look like.
The second part may not be finished until a regular EU summit due on December 13-14.
Assuming the negotiations have reached an agreement and Mrs May travels to Brussels with her Cabinet’s support, this stage should be a formality.
What if there is no agreement? If EU leaders do not sign off on the deal at this stage, no deal becomes highly likely – there is just no time left to negotiate a wholly new deal.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (pictured) is still a crucial figure in the Brexit drama
The so-called ‘meaningful vote’ in the UK Parliament, December 2019
What will happen: A debate, probably over more than one day, will be held in the House of Commons on terms of the deal.
It will end with a vote on whether or not MPs accept the deal. More than one vote might happen if MPs are allowed to table amendments.
The vote is only happening after MPs forced the Government to accept a ‘meaningful vote’ in Parliament on the terms of the deal.
What happens if May wins? If the meaningful vote is passed, there will be a series of further votes as the withdrawal treaty is written into British law.
It will be a huge political victory for the Prime Minister and probably secure her version of Brexit.
What happens if she loses? This is possibly the most dangerous stage of all.
The Prime Minister will have to stake her political credibility on winning a vote and losing it would be politically devastating.
Brexiteers do not want to sign off the divorce bill without a satisfactory trade deal and Remainers are reluctant to vote for a blind Brexit.
She could go back to Brussels to ask for new concessions before a second vote but many think she would have to resign quickly.
The Prime Minister (pictured at the EU Council in June) has made clear the UK will leave without a deal if MPs reject her package
Ratification in the EU, February 2019
What will happen? After the meaningful vote in the UK, the EU will have to ratify the agreement.
The European Parliament must also vote in favour of the deal. It has a representative in the talks, Guy Verhofstadt, who has repeatedly warned the deal must serve the EU’s interests.
Will it be agreed? In practice, once the leaders of the 27 member states have agreed a deal, ratification on the EU side should be assured.
If the deal has passed the Commons and she is still in office, this should not be dangerous for the Prime Minister.
Exit day, March 29, 2019
At 11pm on March 29, 2019, Britain will cease to be a member of the European Union, two years after triggering Article 50 and almost three years after the referendum.
Exit happens at 11pm because it must happen on EU time.
If the transition deal is in place, little will change immediately – people will travel in the same way as today and goods will cross the border normally.
But Britain’s MEPs will no longer sit in the European Parliament and British ministers will no longer take part in EU meetings.
Negotiations will continue to turn the political agreement on the future partnership into legal text that will eventually become a second treaty. Both sides will build new customs and immigration controls in line with what this says.
Transition ends, December 2020
The UK’s position will undergo a more dramatic change at the end of December 2020, when the ‘standstill’ transition is due to finish.
If the negotiations on a future trade deal are complete, that could come into force.
But if they are still not complete the Irish border ‘backstop’ plan could be triggered.
Under current thinking, that means the UK staying in the EU customs union and more regulatory checks between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.
Eurosceptics fear this arrangement will prevent the country striking trade deals elsewhere, and could effectively last for ever, as Brussels will have no incentive to negotiate a replacement deal.
Who are the Cabinet ministers who could resign over Brexit and how damaging would their exits be?
With the Brexit deal thrashed out in principle between the UK and EU negotiating teams, Theresa May now faces the tough challenge of getting her Cabinet to support it.
Here are the Cabinet ministers who Number Ten fear could walk over the agreement, and an assessment of how damaging their departures could be.
The Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey (pictured in Downing St today) is one of the Cabinet’s leading Brexiteers
Esther McVey, Work and Pensions Secretary
Ms McVey is one of the cabinet’s leading Brexiteers.
She was said to have been unhappy at the way the Brexit talks were heading fearing that the plan for an Irish border backstop could keep Britain trapped inside the EU customs union.
She was only promoted to the Cabinet in January this year, is not a household name, and did not play a big role in the Leave campaign as she did not have a parliamentary seat when the Brexit referendum was run.
Damage score: 4/10
As Britain’s second Brexit Secretary in six months, Dominic Raab (pictured in Downing Street today) is a central player in the Cabinet
Dominic Raab, Brexit Secretary
As Britain’s second Brexit Secretary in six months, Mr Raab is a central player in the Cabinet.
The ardent Brexiteer was one of the faces of the Vote Leave campaign, and was promoted to his post in June after David Davis quit in fury at the Chequers plan.
While he has maintained his loyalty to Theresa May publicly, he has been a fierce critic of EU blocking the UK from ensuring it could leave the EU customs union unilaterally. Losing a second Brexit Secretary in six months would be hugely damaging to the PM.
Damage score : 9/10
Andrea Leadsom (pictured in Downing Street last month) was a leading face with Vote Leave
Andrea Leadsom, leader of the Commons
Another leading campaigner with the Vote leave campaign, she had been a contender for the Tory leadership before withdrawing – clearing the way for Theresa May’s coronation.
She is a committed Brexiteer who has largely kept out of the rows over the PM’s strategy. But she pointedly refused to back Mrs May to stay on as Prime Minister in the long-run last month.
Damage Score: 6/10
Michael Gove (pictured in Downing St yesterday) was the frontman of the Vote Leave campaign alongside Boris Johnson
Michael Gove, Environment Secretary
Alongside Boris Johnson, Micheal Gove was the frontman of the Vote Leave campaign – breaking ranks with his long-time and close friend David Cameron to campaign to quit the EU.
After the resignations of Mr Johnson and David Davis, he is one of the final leading Brexiteers still sticking with Mrs May and in the Cabinet.
His resignation would be a body bow to the PM – and a sign that she had finally lost support of most of the Brexiteer wing of her party.
Damage Score: 9/10
Penny Mordaunt (pictured in Downing Street) never explicitly backed Theresa May’s Chequers Brexit plan – only saying that she backed the PM.
Penny Mordaunt, International Development Secretary
A leading Brexiteer popular with Tory MPs, Penny Mordaunt was promoted to the Cabinet last November.
She never explicitly backed Theresa May’s Chequers Brexit plan – only saying that she backed the PM.
She is often named as one of the Cabinet ministers most likely to walk over Brexit – but if she does go she risks cutting her cabinet career short.
Damage Score: 5/10
Liam Fox (pictured in Downing Street yesterday) long-time Brexiteer, he was one of the trio of leading Eurosceptics – alongside Boris Johnson and David Davis – elevated to the Cabinet after Theresa May was made Tory leader
Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary
A long-time Brexiteer, he was one of the trio of leading Eurosceptics – alongside Boris Johnson and David Davis – elevated to the Cabinet after Theresa May was made Tory leader.
He has largely stayed out of the political Brexit rows which have plunged the PM’s government into one crisis after another.
But if he did quit it would show that Mrs May is losing her influence over the Brexiteers.
Damage Score: 6/10