European Union divorce deal in peril after two UK Cabinet ministers quit

Jermaine Castillo
November 16, 2018

The draft EU agreement would see Britain remain in a customs union for several years with the European Union after it exits the bloc in March, but with an unclear legal path to quitting the customs arrangement while a fuller, but so far ill-defined trade deal is negotiated.

The latest market gyrations came as the nation's business sector gave a lukewarm verdict to the proposed agreement, and amid worries that British Prime Minister Theresa May could soon face a no-confidence vote.

To trigger a no confidence vote, at least 48 Tory MPs - 15% of the 315 in parliament - are required to send letters to Brady, who keep track of how many have been submitted.

The tabloid Sun newspaper said May's job as prime minister was hanging by a thread, with her former foreign secretary Boris Johnson tipped as a potential successor at Number 10.

Outgoing Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said there would be "adequate food" if grocery stores stockpiled, but quickly drew the ire of critics who said there was no space to implement this plan.

Numerous MPs were contacted for comment but, although it is widely expected the vast majority will back the prime minister, most were unwilling to fully back Mrs May at this stage.

On one of the biggest days of her political career and with the fate of her government at stake, a determined and composed May told parliament she had secured the best deal possible for Britain.

"On both sides, we have exhausted our margin of manoeuvre", an official said, adding: "We think it is the best we can we can do with the constraints we have on both sides".

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Their departure, and the resignations of two junior ministers, shakes May's divided government.

"The government is in chaos", Corbyn said.

Looking exhausted and drawn, she said she believed in her Brexit plan "with every fibre of my being", and ruled out a People's Vote.

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the date was agreed pending the United Kingdom cabinet's approval, which will be followed Wednesday by the draft's publication. "Their deal risks leaving the country in an indefinite halfway house without a real say".

Some in Britain, including lawmakers on both sides of the debate, have been calling for a second public vote on any deal that the U.K. Parliament approves.

But the choice was this deal, which enables us to take back control and to build a brighter future for our country, or going back to square one with more division, more uncertainty and a failure to deliver on the referendum.

"The collective decision of cabinet was that the government should agree the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration", she said, after a five-hour meeting.

"I do not pretend that this has been a comfortable process, or that either we or the European Union are entirely happy with all of the arrangements that have been included within it", May said, adding it was an arrangement both sides say they never want to have to use.

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May insisted: "The choice is clear".

However, on Thursday night German Chancellor Angela Merkel made plain she did not want to unpick the deal.

But what would a no-deal Brexit look like for Britain?

May said the agreement was the result of "thousands of hours of hard negotiation by United Kingdom officials" and was reached after a key obstacle - the border between the Republic of Ireland, which will remain a part of the European Union, and Northern Ireland, that will remain a part of the United Kingdom - was overcome.

The agreement sets out commitments over citizens' rights after Brexit, the proposed 21-month transition period, the £39bn "divorce bill" and, most controversially, the "backstop" to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This requires the customs union as the basis of the future relationship.

The framework agreement capped a year and a half of complex and bitter negotiations aimed at unwinding almost 46 years of British EU membership.

It also includes a so-called divorce bill which would see Britain paying around 50 billion US dollars to Brussels.

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