Michel Barnier hails May’s deal as a ‘crucial and decisive’ step to achieving Brexit after many months of ‘intense negotiations’

  • Senior MEP Guy Verhofstadt hailed the ‘positive progress’ made on Brexit 
  • Cabinet approved the PM’s Brexit deal after a marathon five hour meeting 
  • PM said deal is ‘in the national interest’ and ensures UK can take back control
  • Theresa May now faces a political battle to get it though a hostile Parliament 
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Michel Barnier today hailed the deal thrashed out with Theresa May as a ‘decisive and crucial’ step in delivering Brexit.

In a  day of high drama, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator hailed the deal in a press conference in Brussels minutes after Mrs May got sign off for it from her Cabinet.

The PM emerged from the marathon five-hour meeting to declare she believes with her ‘head and heart’ her deal ‘is firmly in the national interest’ – and her ministers had backed her. 

And in a carefully orchestrated show to unity, Mr Barnier addressed a press conference in Brussels to hail the deal. 

He said: ‘This agreement is a decisive and crucial step in concluding these negotiations.’  

He added: ‘We have reached a crucial stage, an important moment in this extraordinary negotiation, which we entered into at the request of the United Kingdom.

‘There is still a lot of work…the path is still long and may well be difficult to guarantee an orderly withdrawal beyond the ordinary withdrawal, beyond the ordinary separation, to build something – to build an ambitious and sustainable partnership with the United Kingdom.

‘There is still work to be done.’  


Michel Barnier (pictured today in Brussels with the large Brexit deal document – which runs to over 500 pages) hailed the deal thrashed out with Theresa May as a ‘decisive and crucial’ step in delivering Brexit

  • Cabinet APPROVES Brexit deal: May insists she is acting in… CAN Theresa May get the votes to pass her Brexit deal…

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The EU negotiator paid paid tribute to the hard work of the negotiating teams and said the deal protects the rights of the millions of EU nationals in Britain and the vice versa. 

Theresa May wins Cabinet’s approval for her controversial Brexit deal


The PM addressed the nation after winning Cabinet’s  approval for her Brexit deal following a marathon six hour meeting

Theresa May claimed she was acting in the ‘national interest’ tonight after forcing her Brexit deal through a stormy Cabinet meeting. 

During nearly five hours of behind-closed doors discussions, a series of ministers are said to have raised concerns about the controversial plan. 

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey is said to have been the most hostile – even breaking normal practice by calling for a formal vote. 

The idea was apparently rebuffed by Mrs May who pointed out that decisions were usually taken based on the mood of the room. 

After the behind-closed doors rowing, which went on three hours longer than scheduled, the premier took to the steps of Downing Street admitting that the debate had been ‘long and impassioned’.

‘The collective decision of Cabinet was that the government should agree the draft Withdrawal Agreement and the outline political declaration,’ Mrs May said.

‘I know there will be difficult days ahead. This is a decision that will come under intense scrutiny and that is entirely as it should be.

‘But the choice was this deal that enables to take back control and build a brighter future or going back to square one with division and uncertainty.’

‘I firmly believe with my head and heart that this decisive choice is in the best interests of the entire UK.’ 

Mrs May’s reference to a ‘collective’ decision rather than a unanimous one immediately raised eyebrows.

Although she appears to have avoided resignations over the draft blueprint thrashed out with Brussels, there are claims that up to 10 ministers spoke out against parts of the package. 

Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt, among those closest to the edge, is believed to have demanded assurances from the premier on key points. 

Scottish Secretary David Mundell had also emerged as a potential risk after he signed a letter warning against giving away fishing rights as part of the agreement, but tonight confirmed that he was staying in the tent.

However, the apparent victory for the PM could be only temporary respite.

There are growing signs that Mrs May could face an imminent no confidence vote.

Mr Barnier said today’s deal ‘is the result of very intense negotiations started 17 months ago. I would like to thank both teams…for their hard work.

‘It has been an honour and privilege to have been part of quite an exceptional team.’

The EU negotiator said he never saw Britain and Brussels and enemies and wants the UK to be the bloc’s ‘friend and ally’.

Mr Barnier said the EU has finally found a way, with Britain, to maintain a soft Irish border – the thorniest issue in the Brexit talks which had threatened to derail the negotiations.

He said Britain could extend the transition if no agreement has been done, or decide to switch to the backstop set out in today’s deal.

But he admitted that Northern Ireland will be subject to more single market rules than the rest of the UK – a move which will spark fury among the DUP who are propping the Tories up in No10.

Mr Barnier added: ‘In the backstop scenario we agree to create the EU – UK single customs territory. Northern Ireland will remain in this same customs territory.

‘In addition, Northern Ireland will remain aligned to those rules in the single market which avoids a hard border. This concerns agricultural goods as well as all products.’

It comes after Mrs May emerged from hours of bitter wrangling in Cabinet tonight to hail her Brexit deal, which she said is ‘firmly in the national interest’.

After nearly five hours of behind-closed doors discussions, the PM declared that she will press ahead with her controversial plan.

Speaking on the steps of Downing Street, she said the debate had been ‘long and impassioned’.

‘The choices before us were difficult… but the collective decision of Cabinet was that the government should agree the document,’ Mrs May said.

‘I know that there will be difficult days ahead. But the choice was this deal… or going back to square one.’

‘I firmly believe with my head and my heart that this is a decision that is in the best interest of the United Kingdom.’

So far Mrs May appears to have avoided resignations by senior ministers over the draft blueprint thrashed out with Brussels.

Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt, among those closest to the edge, is believed to have demanded assurances from the premier on key points.

Senior MEP Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit Coordinator, hailed the positive progress made in the Brexit talks today.

He said: ‘We welcome the positive progress made in the negotiations by Michel Barnier and his team, who have consistently fought for the interests of the European Union. 

‘We look forward to being fully apprised of the details of the withdrawal agreement tomorrow morning by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator.

‘It is encouraging to see that we are moving towards a fair deal that should ensure an orderly withdrawal, including a backstop guaranteeing that there will be no hardening of the Northern Irish/Irish border and that the Good Friday Agreement will be safeguarded. 


Theresa May (pictured outside No10 tonight after the lengthy Brexit Cabinet meeting) and said that her ministers have decided to back her deal which she firmly believes is ‘firmly in the national interest’

‘This deal is a milestone towards a credible and sustainable future relationship between the EU and the UK

‘It is now up to elected parliamentarians on both sides of the Channel to do their work and scrutinise the proposed deal, including the political declaration and the framework for future relationship. 

‘Throughout the Article 50 negotiations, we have fought for a people – first Brexit, and we are committed to forensically monitor closely the implementation of the citizen’s rights parts of the agreement. 

‘The European Parliament will have the final say, along with the UK Parliament, on the deal.’


Senior MEP Guy Verhofstadt (pictured at a conference in Madrid last week)  the European Parliament’s Brexit Coordinator, hailed the positive progress made in the Brexit talks today

How WILL Theresa May get the votes to pass her Brexit Deal through Parliament? The PM could need the support of more than FIFTY hardcore Brexiteers from her own party plus Labour rebels

Theresa May has secured her deal in Brussels but her fight to get it actually in place in time for Brexit day is just beginning.

If the Cabinet agrees to the deal the biggest hurdle will be the ‘meaningful vote’ on the plans in Parliament.

This is expected to take place in December to ensure the deal is over its biggest hurdle before the end of the year.

The Prime Minister needs at least 318 votes in the Commons if all 650 MPs turns up – but can probably only be confident of around 230 votes.

The number is less than half because the four Speakers, 7 Sinn Fein MPs and four tellers will not take part.

To win, Mrs May will need to get back around half of the 80 hardcore Tory Brexiteer rebels and secure the support of the 10 DUP MPs.

Even then she will probably still need the help of dozens of Labour MPs to save her deal and possibly her job.


Theresa May will need 318 votes in the Commons if every single MP turns up. She can only rely on about 230 votes – meaning she will need to get back around half of the 80 hardcore Tory Brexiteer rebels and secure the support of the 10 DUP MPs, plus dozens of Labour MPs 

This is how the House of Commons might break down:

The Government

Who are they: All members of the Government are the so-called ‘payroll’ vote and are obliged to follow the whips orders or resign. It includes the Cabinet, all junior ministers, the whips and unpaid parliamentary aides.

How many of them are there? About 150.

What do they want? For the Prime Minister to survive, get her deal and reach exit day with the minimum of fuss.

Many junior ministers want promotion while many of the Cabinet want to be in a position to take the top job when Mrs May goes.

How will they vote? With the Prime Minister.

Brexiteers in the European Research Group (ERG)

Who are they? Led by Jacob Rees-Mogg, the ERG counts Boris Johnson, David Davis and other former ministers including Steve Baker and Iain Duncan Smith.

How many of them are there? Estimates vary on how many members it has. It secured 62 signatures on a letter to the PM in February while Mr Baker has claimed the group has a bloc of 80 Tory MPs willing to vote against May’s plans.

The group’s deputy leader Mark Francois said today there were at least 40 hard liners who would vote against the deal in all circumstances.

What do they want? The ERG has said Mrs May should abandon her plans for a unique trade deal and instead negotiate a ‘Canada plus plus plus’ deal.

This is based on a trade deal signed between the EU and Canada in August 2014 that eliminated 98 per cent of tariffs and taxes charged on goods shipped across the Atlantic.

The EU has long said it would be happy to do a deal based on Canada – but warn it would only work for Great Britain and not Northern Ireland.

The ERG say the model can be adapted to work for the whole UK. They say Northern Ireland can be included by using technology on the Irish border to track goods and make sure products which don’t meet EU rules do not enter the single market.

They also say it would give complete freedom for Britain to sign new trade deals around the world to replace any losses in trade with the EU.

The group is content to leave the EU without a deal if Brussels will not give in.

How will they vote: Against the Prime Minister.

Moderates in the Brexit Delivery Group (BDG) and other Loyalists

Who are they? A newer group, the BDG counts members from across the Brexit divide inside the Tory Party. It includes former minister Nick Boles and MPs including Remainer Simon Hart and Brexiteer Andrew Percy.

There are also many unaligned Tory MPs who are desperate to talk about anything else.

How many of them are there? There are thought to be around 50 members in the BDG, with a few dozen other MPs loyal to the Prime Minister

What do they want? The BDG prioritises delivering on Brexit and getting to exit day on March 29, 2019, without destroying the Tory Party or the Government. If the PM gets a deal the group will probably vote for it.

It is less interested in the exact form of the deal but many in it have said Mrs May’s Chequers plan will not work.

Mr Boles has set out a proposal for Britain to stay in the European Economic Area (EEA) until a free trade deal be negotiated – effectively to leave the EU but stay in close orbit as a member of the single market.

How will they vote? With the Prime Minister.

Unrepentant Remainers in the People’s Vote

Who are they? A handful of about five Tory MPs – mostly former ministers – who never supported Brexit and think the failure of politicians to get a deal means Parliament should hand it back to the people. The group includes Anna Soubry, Dominic Grieve and Justine Greening.

What do they want instead? A so-called People’s Vote. The exact timing still needs to be sorted out but broadly, the group wants the Article 50 process postponed and a second referendum scheduled.

This would take about six months from start to finish and they group wants Remain as an option on the ballot paper, probably with Mrs May’s deal as the alternative.

There are established pro-Remain campaigns born out of the losing Britain Stronger in Europe campaign from 2016. It is supported by Tony Blair, the Liberal Democrats and assorted pro-EU politicians outside the Tory party.

How will they vote? Hard to say for sure. Probably with the Prime Minister if the only other option was no deal.

The DUP

Who are they? The Northern Ireland Party signed up to a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement with the Conservative Party to prop up the Government.

They are Unionist and say Brexit is good but must not carve Northern Ireland out of the Union.

How many of them are there? 10.

What do they want? A Brexit deal that protects Northern Ireland inside the UK.

How will they vote? Against the Prime Minister if the deal breaches the red line, with the Prime Minister if she can persuade them it does not. The group currently says No.

Labour Loyalists

Who are they? Labour MPs who are loyal to Jeremy Corbyn and willing to follow his whipping orders.

How many of them are there? Between 210 and 240 MPs depending on exactly what Mr Corbyn orders them to do.

What do they want? Labour policy is to demand a general election and if the Government refuses, ‘all options are on the table’, including a second referendum.

Labour insists it wants a ‘jobs first Brexit’ that includes a permanent customs union with the EU. It says it is ready to restart negotiations with the EU with a short extension to the Article 50 process.

The party has six tests Mrs May’s deal must pass to get Labour votes.

How will they vote? Against the Prime Minister’s current deal.

Labour Rebels

Who are they? A mix of MPs totally opposed to Mr Corbyn’s leadership, some Labour Leave supporters who want a deal and some MPs who think any deal will do at this point.

How many of them are there? Up to 45 but possibly no more than 20 MPs.

What do they want? An orderly Brexit and to spite Mr Corbyn.

How will they vote? With the Prime Minister.

Other Opposition parties

Who are they? The SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, Green Caroline Lucas and assorted independents.

How many of them are there? About 60 MPs.

How will they vote? Mostly against the Prime Minister – though two of the independents are suspended Tories and two are Brexiteer former Labour MPs.

 

 

 

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