UK significantly closer to delivering Brexit, says May

The UK is “significantly closer” to delivering on the result of the Brexit vote, Theresa May has said, after settling a draft withdrawal agreement.

She faces a crunch cabinet meeting at 14:00 GMT as she tries to win colleagues’ support for the agreement.

She told MPs that it would give the UK control of its borders, laws and money while protecting business and jobs.

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

Dismissing what he said was a “bad deal” at Prime Minister’s Questions, the Labour leader said Mrs May was putting a “false choice” before Parliament between her “botched deal and no deal”.

But Mrs May said Labour’s objective was to “frustrate Brexit and betray the vote of the British people”.

During Prime Ministers’ Questions, a number of Tory MPs questioned the terms of the draft agreement, Peter Bone saying it would “not deliver on Brexit”.

Crunch meeting ahead

The BBC’s Norman Smith said the prime minister would seek to head off the threat of any resignations by telling her cabinet 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.

Ministers – including Brexiteers like Liz Truss, Esther McVey and Penny Mordaunt – have been filing into Downing Street to get their first look at the agreement in a special reading room, amid speculation about further resignations.

Theresa May is briefing ministers on the plans on a one-to-one basis ahead of a full cabinet meeting expected to last three hours.

If the cabinet signs it off, the EU Commission is expected later to publish the details of the 500-page draft withdrawal agreement as well as the much shorter declaration on future economic and security relations.

The pound made a tentative rise against the dollar on Wednesday morning – up 0.12% – and rose against the Euro – up 0.16% – in the wake of news that the draft had been agreed.

Ambassadors from the remaining 27 EU member states will discuss the possibility of organising an emergency summit later this month, earmarked for 25 November, to sign off on it.

If this happens, the government will then face a battle to win Parliament’s backing, with some Tories vowing to vote against it and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party – which Mrs May relies on to win key Commons votes – also expressing concern.

The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson told BBC Radio 4’s Today that from “what we have heard… this deal has the potential to lead to the break-up of the United Kingdom and that is not something we can support”.

He added that his party “do not fear a general election”, if that is what happens as a result of opposing the deal.

Brexiteer Conservative MPs were first to criticise the agreement, based on leaks of it, saying it would keep the UK under EU control.

Some Remain-supporting Conservatives have also said they will not vote for it – but Conservative Chief Whip Julian Smith said he was “confident” the deal would pass when put to a crucial Commons vote.

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