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UK and EU agree text of draft withdrawal agreement

Vidya Ram LONDON | Updated on November 14, 2018 Published on November 14, 2018

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The British cabinet is set to meet for a crucial meeting on Wednesday, after UK and EU negotiators agreed to the text of a draft withdrawal agreement in Brussels on Tuesday.

A Downing Street spokesperson confirmed that a cabinet meeting is due to take place to decide the next steps, following discussions in Brussels. “Cabinet Ministers have been invited to read documentation ahead of that meeting,” they said in a statement on Tuesday late afternoon.

The development will put the spotlight firmly on the internal battles within the British government over the terms under which Britain will leave the EU. Media including the BBC reported that ahead of the Wednesday meeting individual meetings with cabinet members are set to take place on Tuesday, as the Prime Minister attempts to rally support for the terms of the deal.

Brexit strategy

The Prime Minister’s Brexit strategy has provoked much division within her own government. At the weekend Jo Johnson, the Transport Minister, resigned arguing Theresa May’s Brexit strategy – dubbed the “Chequers Deal” would leave Britain economically weakened and called for a second referendum. Among the biggest obstacles in reaching agreement has been the length of time over which the Irish backstop – to prevent the development of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland would apply. While some are eager for a near and definite end to the backstop others have been concerned about the risk that inadequate backup mechanisms could have on peace on the island.

Wednesday’s development is a significant one and raises the prospect of a summit of EU leaders in November to further discuss the terms on which Britain will exit, heightening chances of other steps – including a parliamentary approval process – proceeding in time for March 29 when Britain is set to leave the EU formally. However, many obstacles remain: beyond the cabinet, there are also questions around whether the terms in the over-400-page document will be agreed by individual EU member states and by a majority within the UK Parliament. Crucially there is the question of whether the government can command the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, on whose votes it would be reliant to get legislation through Parliament.

“The significance of this moment is the PM starting the process of seeking support for her Brexit deal. There's quite a path from here to final deal, but at least the waiting game is over,” said David Henig, a former senior civil servant within the Department of Trade.

MPs campaigning for a second referendum warned that there remained a long way to go. “This is not in any way shape or form a ‘deal’,” warned Labour MP Chuka Umunna. “It looks nothing like what people voted for and provides no certainty on our final relationship with the EU.”

Boris Johnson, who resigned over the summer because of the direction of UK negotiations, warned ahead of the official announcement that a deal was set to be struck but that it would “mean surrender by the UK,” which would be “doomed” to “colony status” to the EU.

Published on November 14, 2018
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