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There was a significant breakthrough was made in the UK’s Brexit divorce deal on Wednesday with the news that a draft of the agreement has been completed. The 500 page document was presented to Theresa May’s cabinet in a lock-in session on Wednesday night. It could turn out to be a huge day for the country but the reaction from many in her own party suggests it could well be the beginning of the end for the Prime Minister.
In a passionate announcement made just minutes after her cabinet in which the deal was passed, May said that she owes it to the country to "take decisions that are in the national interest and I firmly believe with my head and my heart this is a decision is the best interest of the entire UK." She was sure that it was a positive step forward for the country but admitted there are tough days ahead. Earlier in the week Boris Johnson and Jacob-Rees Mogg felt that the deal would make Britain "a slave state to the EU" and shortly after the cabinet meeting fellow Conservative MP Mark Francois claimed that there was "mathematically no chance" of the deal being passed through the House of Commons.
Some of the main takeaways from the deal included that entry and exit visas will not be necessary (for the first five years at least), the Irish backstop is for the time being only temporary, both parties want an "ambitious customs agreement" in the future and on top of all this the UK will have the opportunity to request an extension to the transition period at any point before July 1, 2020. This will undoubtedly get triggered sooner rather than later.
The backstop, the avoidance of a hard border in Ireland, is something which is hoped to not be needed. this plan is a safety net should the divorce deal not get passed by the cabinet and/or the European Union. EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier seemed confident that the Irish border issue would be resolved in a way best suited for all parties, "We have found a solution to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland. N Ireland would stay in the same customs territory as the rest of the UK, but N Ireland would remain aligned to some EU regulations to avoid a hard border." A hard Irish border has been a talking point throughout these negotiations but here Barnier seemed to give a prediction of what the border may look like once the deal is complete. The avoidance of a hard border for Ireland was echoed across the Irish border in the south. Leo Varadkar, Prime Minister of Ireland, seemed satisfied with the deal in terms of what it meant for his country. "We have reached a satisfactory outcome on all key Irish priorities" chirped a content Varadkar, you can bet May is wishing for similar positive words from some members of her own cabinet.
Ten of the PM’s cabinet members rejected the deal during the meeting and many sources suggested that the mood around number 10 was much worse than in the wake of the chequers deal. Let’s not forget that this was the PM’s plan which led to the resignation of former Brexit Minister David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. Whether any more of May’s cabinet decide to throw in the towel after this latest step in negotiations remains to be seen but the early signs suggest that this won’t happen. One senior government adviser told journalists that "nobody" will be resigning, however the negotiations are still young.
Theresa May is coming under increasing pressure from her own party and the opposition. Several politicians have reprimanded a draft deal which she passionately supported, with some from her own party beginning to call for her head. Regardless of whether this deal gets over the remaining hurdles, it becomes increasingly unlikely that the person thrown under the bus by David Cameron will be in number 10 by the time the UK steps bleary eyed into the uncertainty of life outside the EU.