Draft Brexit Deal
This week, British Prime Minister Theresa May drafted a Brexit divorce settlement of more than 500 pages which, she says, delivers on her pledge for the U.K. to take back control of laws, borders and money. A five-page Political Declaration was also published, outlining the future trading relationship between the U.K. and E.U. A Withdrawal Agreement outlining Britain's departure from the E.U. will be signed by both the U.K. and the E.U.
As it currently stands, the Withdrawal Agreement legally obliges the U.K. to pay a divorce settlement of at least £39 billion, justified as covering payments to the current E.U. budget and other outstanding financial commitments, and the U.K. will receive nothing in exchange. The U.K. also agreed to a backstop clause that ties the whole of the U.K. to E.U. rules and regulations to avoid a hard border emerging in Ireland. E.U. citizens' rights will be guaranteed and legally enforced, with those who wish to stay in the U.K. invited to apply for "Special Status." While disputes over the Agreement will be settled by an independent panel, the European Court of Justice will have the final say on matters of EU law.
The "backstop" clause would see Northern Ireland remain in a customs union, applying the full E.U. customs code and the E.U. single market rules for goods. Britain would remain in the same all-U.K. customs union but will not follow single market rules. Together, Britain and Northern Ireland will remain in a "single customs territory" with the E.U., as set out in Article 6. This "backstop" will remain in place "unless and until they are superseded, in whole or in part, by a subsequent agreement", according to Article 1 of the Irish protocol.
After a five-hour Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Prime Minister Theresa announced she had full backing to move ahead with her Brexit plan, causing a 1 percent drop in the value of the pound on currency markets. "The collective decision of cabinet was that the government should agree the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration,” PM May said outside her Downing Street office. Angry Brexit supporters and critics protested on Downing Street. “It sells out the country completely. We will be a vassal state of the EU,” said Lucy Harris, who founded the Leavers of London group.
The draft agreement still faces a vote in parliament next month, which appears likely to fail as it does not have support from government or opposition MPs. Conservative MP and euroskeptic Peter Bone, a leading accused PM May of “not delivering the Brexit people voted for” and warning her, “Today you will lose the support of many Conservative MPs and millions of voters.”
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the main opposition Labour Party who is seeking early elections, called the entire negotiations process “shambolic”, saying, “This government spent two years negotiating a bad deal that will leave the country in an indefinite half-way house.”
A European Union official told news media that the final deal includes a so-called “backstop” in which the whole United Kingdom will remain in a customs arrangement with the EU. Northern Ireland would have special status under the proposals, meaning that some checks may be required between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country. The Northern Irish Party propping up PM May’s government threatened to break their alliance over leaks about a special arrangement for Northern Ireland. Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Arlene Foster said she expected to be briefed about the deal by PM May late Wednesday, warning that “there will be consequences” if the leaks were true.
The reported arrangement did not go down well in Scotland, where the pro-independence and europhile government also questioned the deal. Its nationalist leader Nicola Sturgeon asked why Northern Ireland should have a special status that would effectively keep it in the European single market while Scotland should not.
Immediately prior to Ministers gathering on Wednesday, thirteen Scottish Conservative MPs, including Scottish Secretary David Mundell, handed Downing Street a letter warning PM May’s proposed Brexit deal would be a “betrayal” of the fishing industry if Britain was unable to take back control of its waters after the transition ends in 2021.
Despite winning Cabinet support Wednesday to accept her Brexit deal, U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May faced the resignations of four Ministers and several high-level party members on Thursday following a three-hour debate in the House of Commons. Many Conservative MPs openly called for PM May’s resignation and publicly confirmed that they had submitted letters of no confidence to Sir Graham Brady, Chairman of the Conservative’s backbench 1922 Committee.
The 1922 Committee, also known as “the 22”, is a committee of all backbench Conservative MPs that meets weekly when the Commons is sitting. Its chair is usually a senior MP elected by committee members and has considerable influence within the Parliamentary Party.
MP Jacob Rees-Mogg spoke out against PM May’s deal, saying he believed she should "stand aside". In his no confidence letter submitted to Sir Brady, Rees-Mogg stated PM May’s Brexit deal "has turned out to be worse than anticipated” and it “fails to meet the promises given to the nation by the Prime Minister, either on her own account or on behalf of us all in the Conservative Party manifesto".
MP Rees-Mogg is Chairman of the European Research Group (ERG), which represents about sixty pro-Brexit Conservative MPs. Following debate in the House, two meetings took place within three hours. ERG sources say they expect the threshold of forty-eight letters of no confidence to be passed as early as Friday, triggering a vote on PM May's future as early as Monday.
Resigned: Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab; Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey; Northern Ireland Minister Shailesh Vara; Education ministerial aide Anne-Marie Trevelyan; Justice ministerial aide Ranil Jayawardena; Vice-Chairman of the Conservative Party Rehman Chishti; and Director of Legislative Affairs Nikki da Costa. Environment Secretary Michael Gove was offered the now-vacant position of Brexit Secretary, but will only accept if he can renegotiate the deal and is expected to resign tonight.
Resignations from the following individuals are also anticipated: International Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt; Transport Secretary Chris Grayling; Home Secretary Sajid Javid; Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom; Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss; Attorney General Geoffrey Cox QC; and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
Potential Leadership Race
MP Jacob Rees-Mogg dismissed suggestions that he would stand to be the next party leader and said it should be a Brexiteer, naming possible candidates in now-former Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, International Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, former Brexit Secretary David Davis, former London Mayor and Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson.
European Union response to Brexit
European Council President Donald Tusk confirmed a Brexit summit will take place on November 25, at which time European leaders will consider and approve the deal from their end unless something "I" happens. Tusk reiterated his support for the U.K. calling off Brexit altogether. Reversing Brexit, rather than rejoining with the E.U. would require the U.K. to unilaterally revoke Article 50, however, there is no legal precedent for this and may not be legally possible.
Nordic and eastern European member states want the U.K. to remain in the E.U. Germany and France want to see Brexit resolved quickly to push ahead with controversial reforms, such as the creation of a European Union Army, which the U.K. would have veto power over. Once the U.K. leaves the E.U. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron desire for the U.K. to rejoin, requiring new negotiations and empowering Brussels to impose conditions on Britain that it would never accept as one of the EU's most powerful countries.
Brexiteers against PM May’s proposed deal
Boris Johnson dismissed PM May’s proposed Brexit deal as "vassal state stuff" and "utterly unacceptable". Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, Chair of the European Research Group, which represents about sixty Brexiteers, said, “This fails to meet the Conservative party manifesto and many of the commitments the prime minister makes … It keeps us in the customs union and de facto in the single market. This is a vassal state. It is a failure to deliver on Brexit. Sometimes what she [May] does and says does not match. If this document turns out to be accurate it will be difficult to trust anything that comes out of Downing Street."
Hardcore Remainers would likely vote against the deal, hoping for a second referendum instead. Sir Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary expressed his scepticism, "This is highly unlikely to be the right deal for Britain."
If PM May loses the Commons vote
If PM May survives a potential no confidence vote as early as next week, the Brexit draft deal will face a vote in the Commons, which is certain to be voted down. If the draft deal does pass, the Fixed-term Parliament Act, passed to keep the 2010 Coalition stable, makes it hard to bring down the Government, requiring at first a two-thirds majority to call an early election. This is the scenario Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn is hoping for, as he anticipates he would take advantage of the upheaval and win the election.
The Act sets out strict rules for no-confidence votes, whereas there has to be a specific motion. Even if the Government loses it, there is then a two-week cooling-off period in which it can be undone.
Key Dates to Come
November 19: E.U. ministers meet in Brussels to discuss the latest Brexit draft proposal from PM May.
November 21: E.U. government leaders and heads of state meet ahead of the "extraordinary summit".
November 25: E.U. leaders meet in Brussels for a Brexit summit over the weekend, with final discussions and potential sign-off on the deal.
December 10: U.K. House of Commons 'meaningful vote' on the Brexit deal, which could be returned to U.K. Brexit negotiators to amend.
December 13 – 14: Final European Council summit of the year will be held in Brussels and could be the moment the deal is signed off.
December 2018 to March 2019: Ratification process for the Brexit deal begins in U.K. Parliament. After Westminster votes on the deal, the European Parliament will have the final vote on it in March.
March 29, 2019: The U.K. leaves the E.U. and enters the transition period.
December 31, 2020: The U.K. leaves the transition period.