A leaked diplomatic note from Brussels sparked a massive backlash from Leave supporters today as ministers met with the Prime Minister to discuss her Brexit deal.
The note, obtained by The Times, suggested that Sabine Weyand - deputy to Michel Barnier - told ambassadors that the EU "retains its leverage" over Britain under the Prime Minister's deal.
The note is said to state that the UK "would have to swallow a link between access to products and fisheries in future agreements".
According to the note, Ms Weyand said: "We should be in the best negotiation position for the future relationship. This requires the customs union as the basis of the future relationship.
"They must align their rules but the EU will retain all the controls. They apply the same rules. UK wants a lot more from future relationship, so EU retains its leverage."
There was no immediate response to the reports from Number 10, which has remained tight-lipped on the details of the draft agreement, understood to involve the UK remaining in a customs union and committing to a "level playing field" on EU rules in areas like environmental and workplace protections during a backstop period after Brexit.
It comes amid a groundswell of dismay from Brexit supporters over the terms of the deal
Mrs May’s fragile Commons majority was under threat from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), the government’s key coalition partner, which said the plan could lead to the break-up of the UK.
A draft text has been agreed by government and EU officials, with leaks indicating the government has agreed to a UK-wide customs backstop to avoid border checks in Northern Ireland. Brexiteers have claimed this would keep Britain under the EU’s control.
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) November 14, 2018
Former Ukip leader and Leave campaigner Mr Farage led the opposition on Wednesday, telling ITV's Good Morning Britain: "We're giving away in excess of £40 billion in return for precisely nothing. Trapped still inside the European Union's rule book, continuing free movement of people, continuing with a foreign court having a say over our own country.
“Nothing has been achieved other than giving away a huge sum of money."
He described Mrs May as "not just the worst Prime Minister I've ever seen, but perhaps the most dishonest one as well".
He continued: "Get rid of her. Let's get somebody else, let's come back to the EU and say: 'Look, let's have a simple free trade deal or we are leaving on WTO (World Trade Organisation) terms.' And do you know what? They'll bite our arms off."
Mr Farage predicted the Cabinet and then Parliament would “collapse”. He said: “I think we have a career political class who will put their own reselection within their parties above the interests of the nation and our democratic system."
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the DUP’s chief whip, predicted the deal “has the potential to lead to the break-up of the UK”.
Has the PM abandoned the DUP?
Party leader Arlene Foster says Theresa May has been very clear on her commitments to the Irish border.
Deal or no deal, how could Brexit play out? https://t.co/uMmqNc4QmBpic.twitter.com/oBguL6ZeI9
— Sky News Politics (@SkyNewsPolitics) November 14, 2018
And leader Arlene Foster told Sky News: "It's a question of whether we're separating the union – whether we are dealing with the United Kingdom in a way that leaves us adrift in the future.
"As the leader of unionism in Northern Ireland I'm not about to agree to that."
She said in a statement on Tuesday night: "It would be democratically unacceptable for Northern Ireland trade rules to be set by Brussels. Northern Ireland would have no representation in Brussels and would be dependant on a Dublin government speaking up for our core industries."
Ms May was facing further backlash from MPs such as Jacob Rees-Mogg, Boris Johnson and Iain Duncan Smith.
Meanwhile, Mark Francois, deputy chairman of the influential European Research Group of Tory Brexiteer MPs, warned that it would be watching the Cabinet “very carefully” on Wednesday afternoon.
He said Mrs May's deal was “not Brexit, not what 17.4 million people in this country voted for".
Remain-supporting Conservative MP Anna Soubry, meanwhile, told the BBC's Today programme that "the best deal we have with the EU is the deal we currently have with the EU".
Wednesday’s Downing Street meeting could be a flashpoint for tensions between Brexiteers and Remainers on the Cabinet table.
There has previously been speculation that Leave-supporting ministers such as Penny Mordaunt, Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom could quit the Cabinet if a deal ties the UK too closely to Brussels.