UK’s May takes Brexit deal to cabinet as MPs revolt

British Prime Minister Theresa May will seek her cabinet’s approval Wednesday for a long-awaited divorce deal with the EU, but hardline Brexiteer MPs warned they will seek to block it in parliament.

After months of talks, May announced late Tuesday that negotiators had finally struck a draft agreement on the terms of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union next March.

The pound surged on currency markets following the news, which came as Brussels stepped up preparations for a potentially catastrophic “no deal” exit.

But diplomats and officials warned the technical agreement, which runs to hundreds of pages, still needs political approval.

Ambassadors from the other 27 EU member states will meet later in Brussels, while May’s cabinet convenes at 1400 GMT.


If they approve the text, London is hoping for a special summit of EU leaders later this month to seal the deal.

But May has faced constant criticism from her Conservative MPs over her approach, and the deal had barely been announced, when they took to the airwaves to denounce it.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who quit the cabinet over Brexit in July, said the deal would leave Britain a “vassal state” and urged his former colleagues to “chuck it out”.

Former Brexit minister David Davis, who quit at the same time, said: “Cabinet and all Conservative MPs should stand up, be counted and say no to this capitulation.”

Most ominously for May, the Northern Irish party which props up her government threatened to break their alliance over reports of a special arrangement for the British province.

“If this is the shape of the deal, we are probably ending up with no agreement,” Sammy Wilson of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) told Sky News television.

All eyes were on whether eurosceptic ministers including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab may join the chorus of disapproval and resign.

“We are clearly not out of the woods yet,” the London-based Capital Economics research group said in a note to clients.

Irish backstop

British and EU negotiators had stepped up their talks ahead of a deadline on Wednesday to get a deal in time to call the special summit for later this month.

Failure would delay the final settlement until a formal Brussels summit in mid-December, leaving little time for May to get the deal and associated legislation through parliament.

The talks were stuck for months on how to avoid border checks between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, if and until London strikes a new trade deal with Brussels.

Ireland’s RTE broadcaster reported that the final deal includes a so-called “backstop” arrangement in which the whole United Kingdom remained in a customs arrangement with the EU.

It provides for additional “deeper” provisions for Northern Ireland on customs and regulations, risking anger from the DUP.

But it also reportedly allows for a review mechanism that Britain could use to try to leave the backstop arrangement — a key demand of Conservative eurosceptics.

Pro-Brexit MPs like Johnson fear Britain could end up being tied to the EU indefinitely.

May’s deputy David Lidington had earlier promised the government would publish legal analysis on the deal following pressure from Tories and the main opposition Labour party.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would wait for details, but suggested the agreement was “unlikely to be a good deal for the country”.

Other elements of the divorce already agreed include Britain’s exit bill of around £39-billion ($50-billion) as well as a guarantee on EU citizens’ rights.

It also provides for a 21-month transition after Brexit during which London would follow EU rules, for both sides to negotiate a new trade relationship.

© Agence France-Presse

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Alice Ritchie
Alice Ritchie
AFP journalist covering British politics. South Londoner.
Dmitry Zaks
Dmitry Zaks
Politics and economics reporter with Agence France-Presse (AFP

Related stories

Richard Calland: South Africa needs a Roosevelt style of leadership

President Cyril Ramaphosa needs to hold ‘fireside chats’ and have more power and institutional muscle around him, writes Richard Calland

Alassane Ouattara: In the eye of Côte d’Ivoire’s perpetual succession crisis

His road to the presidency was anchored in contention and acrimony, and if his bid is successful, Alassane Ouattara will have ruled for two decades when all is said and done.

An African free trade area is in our sights

Successes and failures from other initiative such as the European Union will be instructive, but much work must be done before the African Continental Trade Area becomes a reality

Study shows land redistribution can create new jobs in agriculture in South Africa

When South Africa eventually emerges from the fog of the Covid-19 crisis, will policy makers be ready to grasp the nettle of farm scale, and promote the large-scale redistribution of land to small-scale producers?

Johnson defends under-fire virus ‘test and trace’ scheme

The scheme uses an army of 25 000 tracers to contact people who may have been exposed to the virus

Richard Calland: CR’s tough test amid politics of pandemic

Opposition parties and ANC ‘factions’ will attempt to use the crisis to their advantage
Advertising

Subscribers only

The shame of 40 000 missing education certificates

Graduates are being left in the lurch by a higher education department that is simply unable to deliver the crucial certificates proving their qualifications - in some cases dating back to 1992

The living nightmare of environmental activists who protest mine expansion

Last week Fikile Ntshangase was gunned down as activists fight mining company Tendele’s expansions. Community members tell the M&G about the ‘kill lists’ and the dread they live with every day

More top stories

Fifteen witnesses for vice-chancellor probe

Sefako Makgatho University vice-chancellor Professor Peter Mbati had interdicted parliament last month from continuing with the inquiry

Constitutional Court ruling on restructuring dispute is good for employers

A judgment from the apex court empowers employers to change their workers’ contracts — without consultation

Audi Q8: Perfectly cool

The Audi Q8 is designed to be the king in the elite SUV class. But is it a victim of its own success?

KZN officials cash in on ‘danger pay for Covid-19’

Leadership failures at Umdoni local municipality in KwaZulu-Natal have caused a ‘very unhappy’ ANC PEC to fire the mayor and chief whip
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday