‘Brexit deal with EU delivered on what the British people voted for’

Vidya Ram London | Updated on November 16, 2018

Theresa May   -  REUTERS

British PM faces critics across political spectrum

A defiant British Prime Minister, Theresa May, insisted that the deal she had struck with EU negotiators was one that delivered on what the British people voted for as she faced critics from within her own party, allies and Opposition parties over the terms that had been agreed.

“I am confident it takes us significantly closer to what people voted for,” she told MPs during a heated session of Prime Minister’s Questions that took place ahead of a crucial cabinet meeting on Wednesday afternoon.

Britain would take back control of its borders and money, she insisted, pointing to the end of the free movement of EU citizens within the UK, while providing guarantees for those already resident here.

The agreement which offers a solution to the issue of the Irish backstop — effectively how long by whose determination the insurance policy to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland remains in force — has triggered criticism from across the political spectrum.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn accused her of conducting bungled negotiations that resulted in a deal that breached the very criteria of success the government had set itself. Far from offering Parliament a meaningful say, it offered parliamentarians a “false choice” between a botched deal and no deal, he said.

However, at the other end of the political spectrum, Conservative MP Peter Bone accused her of not delivering on the vote of the British people. “You will lose the support of many Conservative MPs and millions of voters across the country,” he told MPs.

Earlier in the day, the Democratic Unionist Party on whose votes in Parliament the government is reliant, also expressed scepticism over the deal and whether it maintained the territorial integrity of the whole of the UK. Critics also pointed to a story in The Times newspaper, which accessed a leaked note of a meeting of the EU’s deputy negotiator with EU ambassadors in which she suggested that the EU retained the “leverage,” which appeared to endorse their view that Britain had “capitulated.”

Crucial moment

The cabinet meeting, which commenced on Wednesday afternoon as this publication went to press, is seen as a crucial moment for May and her ability to rally her highly divided cabinet behind her. While there have been no cabinet resignations so far, senior figures such as Brexit secretary Dominic Raab or International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt — key Brexiteers — are yet to publicly voice support for the deal and resignations remain a distinct possibility. There have already been a number of high-profile ministerial resignations in recent months over the negotiations, including former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, former Transport secretary Jo Johnson, and Brexit secretary David Davis.

Should she win cabinet support there remains a long route ahead: the EU would have to seek endorsement from individual member states, while the deal would also have to make it through the UK Parliament, facing down growing calls for a second referendum. However, cabinet approval could lead to an EU summit later this month, which is seen as crucial for ensuring that reaching a deal (rather than plunging out of the EU without one) remains a possibility within the time frame set out by the government.

Published on November 14, 2018

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