15 Nov 2018

British Cabinet backs Brexit agreement

9:12 am on 15 November 2018

British Prime Minister Theresa May says her Cabinet has agreed the government should accept a draft treaty on Britain's departure from the European Union.

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Photo: AFP / PRU

The prime minister was speaking after what she said was a "long, detailed and impassioned debate" in a five-hour cabinet meeting.

She said it was a "decisive step" in the progress of Brexit, and would allow the agreement to be finalised in the coming days.

Conservative Brexiteers have already criticised what is thought to be in it.

The 585-page draft withdrawal agreement has now been published by the EU. A shorter statement setting out what the UK and EU's future relations will look like has also been drawn up.

European Parliament Brexit lead Guy Verhofstadt said the agreement "will make a Brexit possible, while maintaining a close relationship between the EU and UK, a protection of citizens' rights and the avoidance of a hard Irish border".

Criticism of the draft agreement has focused on how this hard border can be avoided.

Some Tory MPs are angry, claiming it could mean the UK is tied to EU rules for years to come.

Despite winning the backing of her cabinet, the prime minister faces a battle to get the completed deal through Parliament.

The Democratic Unionist Party - which gives the government the support it needs to win key votes - has joined opposition parties in criticising the anticipated arrangements.

Earlier Mrs May said it would allow the UK government to take back control of borders, laws and money.

But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the UK would be stuck in an "indefinite half-way house without any real say" over the rules.

Criticism of the draft agreement has focused on ways to prevent a hard border in Northern Ireland.

Some Conservative Brexiteers are angry, claiming it could mean the UK is tied to EU rules for years to come.

A senior Conservative told the BBC there could be a move to a vote of no-confidence in Mrs May, perhaps as soon as Thursday, although this has not been confirmed. Sources said many Brexiteer MPs were likely to submit letters to the backbench 1922 Committee calling for her to go.

If 15 percent of Tory MPs (currently 48) do this it would trigger a vote of no confidence.

Meanwhile Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party - which supports Mrs May's government in key votes - warned of "consequences" if there is a deal that "breaks up the United Kingdom".


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