Brexit deal latest: Theresa May's Cabinet backs EU divorce deal
Theresa May tonight announced that the Cabinet has “collectively” backed her Brexit deal and told MPs that the only alternatives were no-deal chaos or the cancellation of Brexit, Evening Standard reported.
In a statement outside No 10, after a marathon five-hour argument in Cabinet, she said there had been a "long, detailed and impassioned debate" on the 537-page withdrawal agreement and a draft statement outlining a future trade deal.
"This is a decisive step which enables us to move on and finalise the deal in the days ahead,” she said.
"These decisions were not taken lightly but I believe it is a decision that is firmly in the national interest."
As she made her statement the Prime Minister had to compete to be heard over the boos and shouts of anti-Brexit campaigners stood on Whitehall.
There were no immediate Cabinet resignations, although it emerged that several senior ministers voiced criticism, with Esther McVey the Work and Pensions Secretary clearly unhappy.
However, Mrs May faced open threats of a leadership challenge from furious Conservative right wingers opposed to the deal, which would keep Britain aligned with EU rules indefinitely. Several MPs said letters were going in to the chairman of the 1922 Committee seeking a confidence vote that could be triggered as early as tomorrow.
And with enemies on all sides vowing to block the deal in the Commons, including Tory Brexiteers and some Remainers, Labour and the SNP – Mrs May’s ability to win a vote was in doubt.
The Prime Minister sounded subdued after an exhausting five-hour Cabinet meeting, which over-ran by two hours amid disagreements among her top team.
Theresa May said the Cabinet had taken a 'decisive step' to back her Brexit deal (PA)
Her use of the term “collectively” rather than unanimously signalled there had been opposition.
However, the landmark decision triggered a rapid response from Brussels, where the documents agreed will shortly be published. Senior MEP Guy Verhofstadt welcomed the “positive” endorsement of a “fair deal”.
There will be a special Brexit summit in Brussels - probably on November 25 - for EU leaders to approve the deal, followed by a crucial Commons vote in which MPs will hold Britain's future in their hands.
The Prime Minister acknowledged the difficulty of the discussion in the Cabinet: "I firmly believe that the draft withdrawal agreement was the best that could be negotiated and it was for the Cabinet to decide whether to move on in the talks.
"The choices before us were difficult, particularly in relation to the Northern Ireland backstop, but the collective decision of Cabinet was that the Government should agree the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration."
But she concluded her statement with fighting talk – saying it was her deal or chaos.
"The choice was this deal that 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,” she declared.
"It is my job as Prime Minister to explain the decisions that the Government has taken and I stand ready to do that beginning tomorrow with a statement in Parliament.
"I believe that what I owe to this country is to take decisions that are in the national interest and I firmly believe with my head and my heart that this is a decision which is in the best interests of our entire United Kingdom."
Jacob Rees-Mogg, chair of the European Research Group of Brexit ultras, wrote to his 40-80 strong supporters urging them to vote against the package. ERG is thought to swing up to 40 MPs, enough to obliterate Mrs May’s hopes of winning, unless Labour abstains or is split.
In his letter to Conservative MPs, Mr Rees-Mogg said the deal fell far short of Mrs May’s promised red lines.
Chief EU negotiator for Brexit Michel Barnier (AFP/Getty Images)
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