Government sources says a Brexit deal has been agreed on a “technical level” and will be presented by Theresa May at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Tonight Theresa May is trying to shore up the deal with her divided cabinet, inviting them one by one into Number 10 to be shown the terms of the agreement.
But already the knives are out for Theresa May’s deal and for the Prime Minister herself.
As details of the mammoth 500 page text began to leak, hardline Brexiteers erupted with rage, insisting the UK would become “a slave state” bound by rules it would not be at the EU table to influence. The terms were slammed for binding Northern Ireland to EU rules, weakening British rule.
May was reported to have agreed a customs backstop for the whole of the UK to avoid a hard border across Ireland – unacceptable to both the Republic and Northern Ireland.
The leaked terms appear to leave Northern Ireland bound by EU rules with no say over them, angering Tory and DUP MPs that May relies on for her slender majority.
Raging former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said Mrs May’s “days were numbered” if she signed such terms which risked Britain’s union with Northern Ireland.
Boris Johnson warned this compromise would make Britain an “EU colony,” and demanded cabinet resignations which might unseat May.
Sounding like he was going to acually stab the Prime Minister rather than metaphorically stab her in the back, Boris Johnson told BBC News: “We have to be pretty careful, but this has been well-trailed, this has been a chronicle of a death foretold for some months now.”
“We are going to stay in the customs union on this deal, we are going to stay effectively in large parts of the single market, and that is vassal state stuff.
“For the first time in a thousand years, this place, this Parliament will not have a say over the laws that govern this country,” he added.
Echoing the warnings of his remain-supporting brother Jo Johnson’s resignation statement, Boris added: “it is a quite incredible state of affairs, it will mean that we are having to accept rules and regulations from Brussels over which we have no say ourselves.”
“The kicker is that we haven’t even really managed to protect the union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, because according to these proposals if reports are correct there would have to be customs and regulatory checks down the Irish Sea as well,” the ex-Foreign Secretary told Sky News, explaining:
“So effectively you would be in a position where the government in Dublin for the first time would have more say over some matters in the government of Northern Ireland than London – because after all Dublin is round the table in Brussels in a way we wouldn’t be.”
But the Sun’s Tom Newton Dunn quoted cabinet sources insisting that Philip Hammond, Dominic Raab, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsom, Chris Grayling and Geoffrey Cox would all be backing the Conservative leader.
Though other senior Tories such as Esther McVeyand Penny Mordaunt were far from convinced.
There were “white flags over Whitehall,” raged a petulant Jacob Rees-Mogg, and he fumed that Irish broadcaster RTE had leaked details of the agreement before the BBC had, perhaps showing how the balance of power in negotiations between Ireland and the UK had shifted due to the tricky Northern Ireland situation.
As members of the shadowy hardline ERG met to discuss derailing the plan, their leader was calling the deal a “failure of government” that would make the UK a “vassal state” and mean “potentially dividing up the United Kingdom.”
Rees-Mogg hit out at his leader: “she hasn’t so much struck a deal as surrendered to Brussels, the UK will be a slave state.”
Ex-Brexit Secretary David Davis fumed: “all Conservative MPs should stand up, be counted and say no to this capitulation.”
The DUP’s Sammy Wilson criticised the agreement for treating Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK –one of the DUP’s red lines, and for effectively tying Northern Ireland into “some kind of customs arrangement forever.”
DUP leader Arlene Foster, whose 10 MPs’ votes were bought in a £2 billion deal to shore up May’s majority, ominously warned: “the Prime Minister must win the support of the Cabinet and the House of Commons. Every individual vote will count.” She insisted that Northern Ireland following EU rules was not “democratically acceptable.”
Jeremy Corbyn tweeted:
“We will look at the details of what has been agreed when they are available. But from what we know of the shambolic handling of these negotiations, this is unlikely to be a good deal for the country. #BrexitDeal”
The Labour Party leader added:
“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. #BrexitDeal”
The Liberal Democrats responded too, tweeting: “Whatever #Brexitdeal the PM has scraped together it will not be as good for the UK as the one we have now.
“The British people must be given the final say on this deal and the option to reject it and choose to remain in Europe.”