K E Y P O I N T S
The prime minister said it was the ‘best that could be negotiated’ and the choice was her deal, no deal or ‘no Brexit at all’.
It followed a marathon five-hour Cabinet meeting in which ministers eventually agreed to support the deal.
But several of the ministers round the table are reported to have spoken up against the deal.
And a move by Brexiteer Conservatives unhappy with the deal to try and oust May as leader is now said to be ‘imminent’.
The backstop - which will come into force if no final trade deal is agreed - will keep the UK in a customs territory with the EU.
Northern Ireland will also apply additional EU rules to goods to prevent the need for border checks on the island of Ireland and putting the Good Friday Agreement at risk.
Under the terms of the backstop there would be a need for checks on goods traveling from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland. The DUP has consistently said it will oppose this.
But the agreement does not allow the UK to unilaterally end the backstop as many Tory Brexiteers have demanded. The EU has to agree.
The transition period, due to last until the end of 2020, can be extended just ‘once’ until ’31 December 20XX’ at the latest.
The UK must ask by 1 July 2020 to extend the transition if it believes more time will be needed to strike a full free trade deal with the EU.
Also set to upset Brexiteers is the agreement that European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings made during the transition will have ‘binding force in their entirety on and in the United Kingdom’.
But May believes she has won a key concession from the EU of a ‘sliding scale’ of what kind of regulatory rules the UK has with the EU in future.
A senior government source argued this leaves the UK as the ‘the only advanced economy that has that relationship with the EU’.
The Chequers plan has been rhetorically chucked in an attempt to appease Tory MPs. The PM’s plan for a common rulebook and future customs arrangement with the EU does not appear in the agreement.
The prime minister will make a statement in the Commons tomorrow (Thursday) morning.
An EU summit has been pencilled in for 25 November to rubber stamp the agreement.
But May now faces an uphill battle to win a Commons vote on the deal in December given opposition from Labour, the SNP, the Lib Dems, her DUP allies as well as Brexiteer and pro-EU Tories.
S N A P V E R D I C T
From Paul Waugh, HuffPost UK Executive Editor (Politics)
It’s hugely complex, stuffed full of annexes, protocols and legal ‘articles’. But just as a Budget red book often buries its bad news, Theresa May’s Brexit deal has more than a few items that will really worry Tory backbenchers and the DUP.
With more small print than the terms and conditions in an iPhone licence, one thing that MPs may find hard to swallow is Article 132. It states that the transition period for Brexit, where the UK basically adheres to many EU rules, can be extended beyond the current deadline of December 2020 to an as yet unspecified date.
Although the XXs in the text’s ‘20XX’ end date will be filled in by the time MPs vote on the deal, some Leavers will worry that it will be so far away that it feels like a ‘Hotel California Brexit’, where you can check out but never leave.
While that will fuel the worst fears of Tory Eurosceptics, what will concern May’s DUP allies is the fact that Dublin’s ‘backstop’ for the Northern Ireland border problem is still alive, though hidden deep in the document. It states that the protocols will be temporary but “shall apply unless and until they are superseded, in whole or part by a subsequent agreement”.
For May, there are things she can sell, not least getting the EU to abandon its binary choice between a Canada-style free trade agreement and a full European customs union. The ‘sliding scale’ of regulation, plus the ditching of the language of Chequers (‘common rulebook’), may be enough fudge to persuade some wavering Tory MPs. But with so much turbulence tonight and talk of leadership letters, it’s far from enough to calm a growing rebellion among her troops.
F U L L D O C U M E N T