Brexit deal could break up the UK: PM faces furious backlash over Brussels agreement

The EU has said it will retain 'all the controls' over the UK under the terms of the Brexit deal struck by Theresa May.

According to a note reportedly written by the bloc's deputy chief negotiator and seen by The Times, the EU will set the rules Britain must follow.

"We should be in the best negotiation position for the future relationship. This requires the customs union as the basis of the future relationship," read the memo, written by Sabine Weyand said.

"They must align their rules but the EU will retain all the controls. They apply the same rules. UK wants a lot more from future relationship, so EU retains its leverage."

The substance of the leak will infuriate Brexiteers – led by Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg – who say the UK will not have a say over the laws that govern it under the government's current plan.

Mrs May's Brexit deal is already hanging by a thread amid warnings by the Democratic Unionist Party that the Irish backstop plan within it could lead to the break-up of the UK.

The party's chief whip, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, warned the deal would in the 'long term' leave Northern Ireland closely aligned with the EU and could increase support for Scottish independence, saying 'this is not the right Brexit'. He also said that his party 'doesn't fear a general election'.

His comments came amid a Brexiteer backlash that threatens to destabilise May.

A draft divorce deal was reached by officials from the EU and UK on Tuesday evening, following months of talks between the two sides.

However, Eurosceptics have urged the Cabinet to reject the proposals and resign from their position in protest – which could lead to a vote of no confidence in the PM.

Cabinet ministers were briefed on the deal on Tuesday night (PA)

Ministers have been briefed one by one on the contents of the draft deal and further individual briefings are expected ahead of a special meeting of the full Cabinet at 2pm.

Ex-Tory leader and Brexit supporter Iain Duncan Smith said Mrs May's days could be numbered if the Cabinet agrees to the draft text.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson urged his ex-Cabinet colleagues to 'chuck it out', while Jacob Rees-Mogg said that the deal 'is a failure of the Government's negotiating position'.


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The special meeting on Wednesday could potentially be a flashpoint for tensions between Brexiteers and Remainers around the Cabinet table, with speculation that Leave-supporting ministers including Penny Mordaunt, Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom could be prepared to quit if a deal ties the UK too closely to Brussels.

But sources have played down the prospect of walkouts.

Chief Whip Julian Smith told reporters: "I am confident that we will get this through Parliament and that we can deliver on what the Prime Minister committed to on delivering Brexit."

What is in the deal?

The Agreement covers arrangements for disentangling the UK from the EU after more than 40 years of membership.

Key issues are the future rights of British expats living on the continent and Europeans in the UK; the settlement of the UK's financial liabilities, estimated at up to £39 billion; and the status of the border on the island of Ireland.

RTÉ said that the text provides for just one backstop to prevent a hard border, and will come in the form of a temporary UK-wide customs arrangement that will include specific provisions for Northern Ireland.

These provisions will 'go deeper on the issue of customs and alignment on the rules of the single market than for the rest of the UK, RTÉ reported.

Highlights of the deal include:

  • A commitment there will be no border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
  • The whole of Britain will temporarily remain part of the customs union after 29 March 2019. This will only end when an 'independent panel' made up of UK and EU civil servants decides it can leave it. This is how May is trying to solve the thorny issue of the Irish 'backstop'.
  • The UK will have to follow the majority of single market rules without having any say in what they should be.
  • A divorce bill of around £40bn.
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson said that the proposals made a 'nonsense of Brexit' (Getty)

What has been the reaction to the deal?

On Wednesday, the initial response from business leaders emerged.

Juergen Maier, UK chief executive of German engineering firm Siemens, called for a calm analysis of the deal on offer.

He told Today: "My gut feeling is that we need to get behind it and we need to make this deal work because what we need is certainty.

"It has been two very difficult years for manufacturers like ours here in the UK. We are investing hundreds of millions of pounds in British manufacturing and what we need is certainty that we can continue to invest and trade properly here.

But, politically, Mrs May remains in a perilous situation because although her deal may get through the Cabinet today, it would also need to get through Parlimaent next month – and that seems unlikely.

She had hoped to appeal to both Leavers and Remainers, it seems that her efforts have in fact led to neither side being happy.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, said: 'It is a failure of the Government's negotiating position, it is a failure to deliver on Brexit and it is potentially dividing up the United Kingdom.'

On the BBC's Newsnight, he said he had not called for a no-confidence vote in Mrs May 'but there comes a point at which the policy and the individual become so intimately connected that it will be very hard to carry on supporting this policy'.

Jacob Rees-Mogg said the deal was a 'failure of the Government's negotiating position' (Getty)
The public have taken a dim view to the handling of Brexit (PA)

Boris Johnson did not mince his words in his attack on the PM's deal, telling the BBC: 'For the first time in 1,000 years, this place, this Parliament, will not have a say over the laws that govern this country. It is a quite incredible state of affairs.'

The 10 DUP MPs, upon whom Mrs May relies for a majority, appear set to reject a deal if it crosses their red lines.

DUP leader Arlene Foster said: 'I am heartened by friends of the Union on both sides of the House and across the UK who have pledged to stand with the DUP in opposing a deal which weakens the Union and hands control to Brussels rather than Parliament.'

Former Ukip leader said the proposal was 'the worst deal in history'.

Jo Johnson, brother of Boris and a Remain-supporter who quit as transport minister over the Government's approach, suggested that Cabinet ministers were questioning whether they could support the deal.

Mrs May is at danger of being a short-term Prime Minister (PA)

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the party would vote against the deal if it failed to meet its tests.

He tweeted: 'Labour has been clear from the beginning that we need a deal to support jobs and the economy – and that guarantees standards and protections. If this deal doesn't meet our six tests and work for the whole country, then we will vote against it.'

- This article first appeared on Yahoo

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