Yesterday evening it was announced that an outline technical Brexit deal had been reached and Theresa May summoned Cabinet ministers to 10 Downing Street (one by one) to discuss it.
A Cabinet meeting for this afternoon is scheduled to approve the ‘deal’.
At the time of writing, no ministers have resigned and it is being reported that a majority of key ministers intend to support the deal in Cabinet, though at least one has already requested that cabinet collective responsibility be suspended to allow ministers to vote against the deal in Parliament.
The parliamentary maths look challenging.
Early indications are that the DUP will vote against the proposed deal, immediately meaning that opposition votes will be required to get it through the house. Even if some Labour MPs vote with the government (estimates are that 6-10 may), any Conservative rebellion will leave the Prime Minister struggling to get anywhere near enough votes – and with the combined forces of the European Research Group, pro-remain Tories, and recently resigned ministers including Jo Johnson and David Davis already lining up to denounce the proposal, a successful outcome is a long way off.
Of course it’s important to note that the actual ‘deal’ has not been made public and many of those briefing against it don’t yet know what has been agreed.
Brexit Deal Rumours
Rumours so far suggest that the arrangement includes the whole of the U.K. remaining within a customs union with an adjudication body including U.K., EU and ‘independent’ representatives to decide whether any alternative proposal to allow the U.K. to leave the arrangement in future is sufficient to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
There are conflicting reports about whether the arrangement includes a distinct backstop arrangement for Northern Ireland (a major issue for both the DUP and many conservative MPs who will not accept any differential treatment for Northern Ireland).
In broad terms, the ‘deal’ is likely to mean that the transition period comes into effect (meaning no material change until the end of 2020) and that alignment with many EU rules, including customs union membership, continues indefinitely thereafter. If this is correct then it would provide some welcome stability for businesses, though ongoing uncertainty about when the arrangements might end and what would take their place would continue to cause concern.
The picture should become clearer in the next 24 hours – a press conference and publication of the legal documents are scheduled for this evening if the cabinet back the ‘deal’ and an EU summit may follow on 25 November – but there are a lot more hurdles to clear before the outcome is certain.