More than two years after Britain voted to leave the European Union, Prime Minister Theresa May finally has a draft divorce agreement with Brussels.
But it is looking like negotiating the deal is only the start of her troubles. She warned yesterday that there are ‘difficult days ahead’ as she begins to tread a hazardous path through her own party, parliament and Brussels to get a deal rubber-stamped.
On Thursday the resignations began to roll in, with Brexit Secretary Dominic Rabb, Work & Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, and as junior Northern Ireland minister Shailesh Vara walking.
So, what happens next?
Today, I have resigned as Brexit Secretary. I cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU. Here is my letter to the PM explaining my reasons, and my enduring respect for her. pic.twitter.com/tf5CUZnnUz
— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) November 15, 2018
London and Brussels statements
On Thursday morning, European Council President Donald Tusk called Brexit a ‘lose-lose situation’ and said negotiations have been and would be about damage control.
All eyes now turn to Westminster – and the reaction of Eurosceptics – as Mrs May delivers her Brexit statement to Parliament.
Mrs May announced she will outline the deal to MPs in the House of Commons today.
In his statement, Tusk confirmed that the EU would hold a summit on November 25.
In the meantime, Mrs May will have to convince parliament and others that the deal is a good one while Tusk said similar would be done with the other 27 member states of the EU.
All ambassadors for those countries will meet before the end of the week, said Tusk.
‘As much as I am sad to see you leave I will do everything to make this farewell the least painful possible for both for you and for us,’ he told the UK.
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The UK Parliament
The government’s plan is to secure a vote that will back the Brexit deal before Christmas.
But that is far from guaranteed, and depends on the reactions of the Conservatives, with many in Mrs May’s own party deeply sceptical, and Labour.
On Thursday, its MPs began a petition for leader Jeremy Corbyn to back a second referendum.
There is also the small matter of convincing the public that this is best deal Britain can get.
Mrs May is braced for even more further resignations.
All eyes will be on various high-profile members of her Cabinet in the next few days, such as Andrea Leadsom and Penny Mordaunt to see if they jump ship.
There is also the reaction of the DUP in Northern Ireland, which is helping prop up Mrs May’s fragile government.
The Transition period
When Britain finally leaves the European Union on March 29 2019, the deal agreed allows for a transition period to be put in place until the end of 2020.
This is to allow the UK and the EU time to form a deal on their future post-Brexit relationship.
If this is not possible by the end of that date, the UK and EU could jointly agree to extend the transition period.
Alternatively, a temporary backstop arrangement could also be put in place from January 2021, establishing a single EU-UK customs territory.