Following months and months and months of negotiations, it would seem as though some kind of informal Brexit agreement has been agreed by Theresa May and the EU’s big cheeses.
It’s a landmark moment, and one that really ought to be celebrated as an upholding of the democratic rights we enjoy as voters in the UK – especially coming so close to Remembrance Day, where a previous generation gave their lives to protect such liberties.
Unfortunately, the critics are already sharpening their knives to stick in the prime minister….
So What’s Happened?
There were plenty of rumours that a draft Brexit agreement had been reached, and that was confirmed when the prime minister called a lengthy meeting with her Cabinet late on Wednesday.
After five hours behind closed doors, Theresa May emerged from 10 Downing Street to greet waiting journalists. She confirmed an informal Brexit agreement with the EU was in place.
“This deal, which delivers on the vote of the referendum, which brings back control of our money, laws and borders, ends free movement, protects jobs, security and our Union; or leave with no deal, or no Brexit at all.”
Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council who has overseen the EU’s side of negotiations, has said that ‘if nothing extraordinary happens’ the Brexit deal will be signed, sealed and delivered in a meeting on November 25.
Everybody’s Happy Then, Right?
Erm, not exactly.
Less than 24 hours has passed since what should have been a landmark announcement, and already a number of parties have voiced their discontent.
It is believed that the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday evening took so long – five hours all told – due to dissenting voices amongst the ministers present, and already some Tory rebels and DUP ministers, who had actually propped up the Conservatives during the last General Election, have vocalised their disapproval.
There have been rumblings of a vote of no confidence against the PM, which would put her grip on Downing Street in jeopardy.
Unsurprisingly, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has taken the opportunity to stick the boot in, saying that the details of the proposed deal ‘were not in the national interest’.
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) 14 November 2018
It is believed that a number of high profile ministers are even considering their positions, with Brexit secretary Dominic Raab already resigning having said that he ‘cannot in good conscience support’ the agreement that he was partly responsible for securing.
The Junior Northern Ireland Minister, Shailesh Vara, has also walked, saying that the draft deal ‘leaves the UK in a halfway-house, with no time limit on when we will finally become a sovereign nation.’
So Why Has the Draft Brexit Deal Been So Badly Received?
The agreement has been revealed to ministers in a weighty 585-page document.
Some of it, naturally, has already been leaked to the media, and numerous horror stories are already emerging.
The hottest of the hot potatoes appears to be the creation of a temporary single customs territory between the EU and the UK at the Northern Irish border; something that Brexit was supposed to eradicate.
This so-called ‘backstop’ would keep the country governed to some EU rules in terms of trade, and naturally the DUP have been rather aggrieved by that.
The draft bill also outlines the financial penalty of ‘divorce’, which looks set to cost us a cool £39bn.
The Sun’s ‘In the Brexsh**’ headline offers their tactful take on the whole debacle, with their opinion piece suggesting the ‘soft’ deal could ‘blow her [Theresa May] government apart’.
They also produced an infographic detailing how difficult it might be for her to get the draft bill through the Commons. The PM would need 318 votes, but only around 230 – according to the graphic – would come from Tory loyalists and opposition party supporters:
What Happens Next?
Should this draft agreement be finalised by both the prime minister and EU representatives, it will be signed off late in November.
Then in December, it will be put to a crucial parliamentary vote.
Should the deal pass that vote, the EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill will be sworn in, and the UK will officially leave the EU in March 2019; albeit with a transition period that lasts until December 2021.
If parliament says no thanks to the terms of the deal, then the government will have 21 days to come up with a new agreement. At this point, leaving the EU with a ‘no deal’ principle looks likely, as would a formal no confidence vote in Theresa May. That in itself might trigger yet another General Election.
In the short term, the BBC’s politics editor Laura Kuenssberg has speculated that heads could roll, with Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary, considered the most likely to resign. Penny Mordaunt, international development secretary, is also thought to be considering her options.