Draft EU deal faces struggle after ministers resign

Theresa May has gained cabinet approval for her draft Brexit deal, but the Prime Minister faces an uphill struggle to get the agreement passed after the resignation of Brexit minister Dominic Raab, writes Emma Lake.

The Cabinet meeting, which took more than five hours to complete last night ended in agreement – but between nine and 11 ministers are said to have opposed the deal.

However, this morning the future of the draft agreement seemed to be in doubt after Dominic Raab, the Minister for Exiting the European Union, resigned. His resignation was followed an hour later by that of Esther McVey, the work and pensions secretary.

Raab, who was instrumental in forging the deal, said he could not “in good conscience” support the agreement.

His resignation followed that of Northern Ireland minister Shailesh Vara earlier this morning.

Several more cabinet members are under pressure from Eurosceptic Tory MPs to quit, including Penny Mordaunt.

May is expected to face a grilling when she addresses the House of Commons today, with groups from all parties – including up to 65 members of her own – calling for the deal to be scrapped.

The 585-page draft agreement set out the terms of the transition period, giving an initial end date of December 31, 2020.

The transition period will be used to agree a future trading relationship, but the draft deal states that if no deal that prevents a hard Northern Ireland border is struck within this period, it will be extended.

During the transition period, all existing rights to work and trade will continue, giving businesses time to prepare and curtailing the risks of any food shortages.

Both sides have agreed to negotiate in good faith during the transition period to achieve a free-trade agreement with no tariffs or quantitative restrictions in the aim of securing as frictionless trade as possible – particularly at Dover.

The Prime Minister has said the choice facing MPs will be her deal, no deal or no Brexit.

Speaking after yesterday’s cabinet meeting, she said: “This deal, which delivers on the vote of the referendum, which brings back control of our money, laws and borders, ends free movement, protects jobs, security and our union; or leave with no deal, or no Brexit at all.”

The Democratic Unionist Party and Brexiteers have been speaking out against May’s plan this morning, saying it could leave the UK tied to EU rules for an indefinite period of time.

The deal will be presented to EU leaders on November 25, when it will need to gain the backing of all 27 heads of state; if agreement is gained, it will go before Parliament.

The pound saw a boost after the announcement that cabinet approval had been gained, before dipping again as Vara and Raab’s resignations were announced.

Travel writer Simon Calder said the only travel aspect he can detect in draft deal is that, for the time being, European Union citizens can continue to visit the UK with ID cards.

“British tourism will be glad passports are not (yet) mandatory,” he tweeted.