Brexit Deal Passes Cabinet
The UK cabinet has agreed to the deal that negotiators for the UK and the EU have brokered following a marathon five-hour plus meeting yesterday. The deal was not put to a vote in cabinet and it is understood that eleven ministers present spoke against the deal with two calls for it to be put to a vote (Ester McVey) being refused. Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss was reported as stating that they were “caught between the devil and the deep blue sea”.
Documentation for the withdrawal agreement runs to 585 pages and is being carefully scrutinised by journalists, politicians and business people. One contentious point already to emerge is that the UK, as a whole, will be in the customs union during the transition period and that Northern Ireland will remain bound to it unless both sides decide that it no longer needs to be. This provision is going to infuriate Brexiters and is likely to be unacceptable to the DUP which provides the government with a working majority since it could mean that trade and other regulations between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK may diverge or because it means that the EU being given a veto on the fate of the UK as Brexiters see it.
Anger amongst pro-Brexit Tory MPs is running sufficiently high that a leadership challenge against Theresa May might be mounted by the end of the week.
The government seems to have conceded that the “meaningful vote” on the withdrawal agreement will be subject to amendments before it is voted on. This opens up the possibility that somebody could require that any political endorsement of the deal would be subject to the outcome of a “People’s Vote” for instance.
The deal has been roundly condemned by the opposition parties as well as by the Eurosceptic wing of the Tory party and what is left of UKIP. It seems to have united the country against it which only provides a degree of schadenfreude.
The EU has agreed to a summit to endorse the deal to be held on 25/11/18 (if the deal lives that long), but a number of member states have said that they want time to be able to study the detail of the agreement.
Brexit has got to first base, but the game would appear to be in its very early stages still. It is impossible to say with any certainty what will happen in the event of a challenge against Mrs May; the resignation of (up to) five pro-Brexit cabinet ministers; or an absolute refusal by the DUP to accept the deal. Would the government present a bill to the house that they know has no chance of being endorsed? Would the intention of presenting such a bill be that it parliament should force the government’s hand by attaching significant amendments to it? Does the current situation raise the prospect of a snap general election? Rarely has a political deal generated as many questions and problems as this. Interesting times indeed…