Friday, 1 July 2022 – 11:38

May calls emergency meeting to sign off her Brexit deal

Ministers have been summoned to an emergency meeting on Wednesday afternoon, where Theresa May will asked them to sign off her final Brexit deal with Brussels. 

The meeting looks set to be a critical juncture in the process, which will receive the final text of the withdrawal agreement. British and European Union negotiators came to the agreement Tuesday as part of the long process of ratifying the UK’s withdrawal.

Minister’s were being summoned individually for briefings on the latest developments, in a move reminiscent of the way in which Margaret Thatcher approach her cabinet prior to her resignation over Poll Tax in 1990. Within these meetings, ministers were allowed to see the key papers regarding the deal, but not take them home. 

They will meet again tomorrow (Wednesday 14, November), to consider the draft agreement and decide on the next steps. 

The principle document is the main withdrawal agreement. It constitutes of more than 400 pages of dense legal text. Ministers will be given the opportunity to read these prior to the meeting, and will be scrutinising them carefully. 

However, a word of caution needs to be issued.

If the Prime Minister secures backing from her ministers, the UK will have a solid position to work from but this will not end the conflicts of opinion from within her party. However, this may still prove to be a hard task. Primarily, the issue over Northern Ireland still permeates through the government. Minister’s will be keen to see when and how the Irish border backstop can be terminated and what is contained within the agreement to this effect tomorrow. Brexiters in the cabinet have repeatedly raised concerns that the UK must not sign up to a backstop arrangement that leaves Northern Ireland in a Customs Union. Wider that the cabinet, for the DUP, whom Theresa May’s government is in a supply-and-demand agreement with, any policy that leaves Northern Ireland with a divergent Brexit to the rest of the UK is unacceptable threatening her ability to get the agreed Brexit proposal through the commons. 

After this, if the deal goes to a vote in the commons, there is debate over whether Jeremy Corbyn’s party will or will not back the deal – in line with their Brexit spokesperson Keir Starmer’s 6 tests. 

Reaction to this has been mixed:

  • Jeremy Corbyn made a statement saying that the deal is “unlikely to be good deal for the country”, and that Labour will looking closely at the details but claimed that handling of these negotiations had been “shambolic”. 
  • Staunch Brexiter, and former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson compared negotiations to the ‘Chronicle of Death Foretold’ claiming that this deal will keep the UK in the Customs Union and Single Market, and that it is “utterly unacceptable” for anyone believing in democracy. 
  • Finally, the chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier said that this represented progress, but said that the UK and EU were “not there yet”. 

Ultimately, this is progress. But, for those hoping that tomorrow represents the end of Brexit, it doesn’t. In the words of Wartime Conservative Prime Minister Winston Churchill, this does not even represent the beginning of the end, but more likely the end of the beginning. 

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