The talks on Brexit between the EU and UK negotiators reached a stage where an agreement on the draft text of the withdrawal agreement, between the two parties has been achieved.
The fact remains that while we might have a draft text, but sealing a deal remains a significant challenge.
BBC’s Norman Smith said No 10 were stressing it had pushed “right to the wire” and “gone as far as we can”. He said the prime minister would seek to head off the threat of any resignations by telling her ministers that while not perfect, the agreement was as good as it can get. Downing Street, he added, were pointing to what they view as significant wins, including no separate customs border for Northern Ireland and an arbitration mechanism to ensure the UK can exit the proposed “backstop” customs arrangement.
Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab is looking forward to “good discussions” today on the Brexit draft agreement but International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt was notably silent. Twitter/Sky
Only the prime minister, EU officials and cabinet ministers are supposed to have seen the text of the draft Brexit agreement so far. However, leaked details reveal:
There is no longer a Northern Ireland-only backstop arrangement aimed at avoiding a hard Irish border, say Number 10 sources
However, according to the Daily Telegraph, Northern Ireland will be in a “different regulatory regime” and “subject to EU law and institutions” under a UK-wide backstop arrangement
The Times says the PM has agreed to “level playing field” measures tying the UK to EU rules in areas such as state aid and environmental and workers’ rights protections under the backstop
The Financial Times says the UK will not be able to leave a UK-EU customs union under the backstop arrangement without the EU being satisfied other arrangements are in place to avoid a hard Irish border
The same newspaper reports a clause in the draft agreement allows the UK to potentially extend the Brexit transition period beyond December 2020, while a declaration on the future EU-UK relationship remains incomplete
A leaked diplomatic note seen by The Times reveals how the EU intends to use a UK-EU customs union and “level playing field” commitment under the backstop as the basis for the UK’s future relationship with the bloc.
According to two officials present at a briefing for EU ambassadors earlier this week, the EU believes the provisional deal struck by the two sides sets a “precedent” for the future customs relationship. Brussels intends to prevent London from watering it down in the negotiations to come over its future trading relationship. Politico
Brussels will “retain all the controls” over swathes of British regulation under the Brexit deal struck by Theresa May, EU negotiators have told member states.
A leaked diplomatic note from a meeting between Commission officials and ambassadors from the EU’s 27 countries reveals how Brussels views the “level playing field” rules signed up to by the prime minister.
“We should be in the best negotiation position for the future relationship. This requires the customs union as the basis of the future relationship,” deputy chief negotiator Sabine Weyand said, according to the note seen by The Times newspaper.
Jeremy Corbyn used prime minister’s questions to lambast the government’s planned Brexit agreement, saying Theresa May’s strategy would give parliament a false choice “between a half-baked deal or no deal”.
Using all his questions to focus on the interim withdrawal agreement which will be put to the cabinet at an emergency meeting later on Wednesday, the Labour leader said the plan was the inevitable result of “two years of bungled negotiations”.
Why is a deal significantly a challenge?
Opponents of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans called on her cabinet ministers on Tuesday to vote down an agreement on Britain’s withdrawal terms if it bore any resemblance to reports of the deal they had seen. Boris Johnson, who resigned as foreign secretary, said he believed the deal was “vassal state stuff”. He said the UK would be bound by laws over which it had no say, which was “utterly unacceptable”. Iain Duncan Smith, when asked if the government’s days were numbered, said: “If this is the case, the answer is almost certainly, yes, because they’re in real trouble if they bring back something unacceptable to their party.”
While these are just two elements, they represent a number of critics of May, who are against elements of the proposed agreement, namely access to the single market. The UK is understood to have ceded that a joint EU-UK committee will judge when an all-UK customs union can be terminated, according to leaks from Brussels. Dominic Raab, the Brexit secretary, had been pushing for a unilateral way out of the customs arrangement. Hard Brexiters swiftly reacted negatively to the prospective deal – and indicated they intended to vote.
Apart from having agreement in Cabinet, which already is a challenge, May requires agreement in the Commons. Prospects of having a second referendum on this deal are also being floated in Britain.
Jeremy Corbyn said “We will look at the details of what has been agreed when they are available. But from what we know of the shambolic handling of these negotiations, this is unlikely to be a good deal for the country
What is the position at the EU?
Envoys from European Union member states will meet late on Wednesday to discuss Brexit, diplomats said, with some adding that they believed they could be briefed on a breakthrough in reaching a deal.
European Union leaders could meet on Nov. 25 to rubber-stamp a Brexit deal if an existing technical agreement is approved by the British cabinet in London on Wednesday, diplomatic sources in Brussels said.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, the European Union issued the latest in positions about the contingency plans, in case of a no deal which as expressed by the EU, both a deal or no deal scenario will bring a number of changes and possibly disruptions. Crucial point was issued about Visas for Britons (and vice versa).
The BBC reports that “Theresa May is to chair a special cabinet meeting on Wednesday to discuss a draft Brexit withdrawal agreement. A cabinet source has told BBC the text has been agreed at a technical level by officials from both sides after intensive talks this week. The Sun and The Guardian from their end reported that every minister was being asked to see the PM for one-to-one talks on Tuesday evening.
The future of the Irish border has been the last major outstanding issue to be settled in the negotiations. Earlier, ministers said they would publish a “full legal statement” before MPs vote on any final agreement.
The undertaking was given as the government faced near certain defeat in the Commons over whether to publish the legal advice it gets about the terms of the UK’s withdrawal.
The Guardian reports that the principal document, the withdrawal agreement, runs to more than 400 pages of dense legal text. Ministers will be given an opportunity to read the documents before the meeting, and will be scrutinising them carefully to see when and how the Irish border backstop can be terminated and what is contained within its provisions.
Brexiters in the cabinet have repeatedly raised concerns that the UK must not sign up to a backstop arrangement that traps the country in a permanent customs union. They will also want to see if the agreement contains any role for the European court of justice in resolving disputes, such as over the termination of the arrangement.
An EU source confirmed that a “stable text” had been sent to London, but officials were not calling it a deal, saying full agreement at political level was still needed. “It is now about seeing if this sticks,” said the source.
The meeting will begin a ratification process that will require the deal to be signed off at a European council summit – most likely in November – and by UK MPs in a keenly anticipated “meaningful final vote” that will take place in the middle of December.
Those hoping to hold a second referendum are expected to use that moment to try win over a majority in the Commons to the idea.
This is a developing story