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UPDATE 8-Brexit divorce deal text agreed by EU and UK as opponents cry foul


Reuters Last Updated at 13-11-2018 23:49:07 IST
The European Union and Britain have agreed a draft text of a Brexit withdrawal agreement and Prime Minister Theresa May will present it to her senior ministers on Wednesday, after more than a year of tortuous negotiations.

While officials choreograph the first withdrawal of a sovereign state from the EU, it remains unclear whether May can get any deal approved by the British parliament as hardline Brexiteers said she had surrendered to Brussels.

"Cabinet will meet at 2 p.m. (1400 GMT) tomorrow to consider the draft agreement the negotiating teams have reached in Brussels, and to decide on next steps," a spokesman at May's Downing Street office said.

"Cabinet ministers have been invited to read documentation ahead of that meeting," the spokesman said, after Irish and British media were leaked details of the breakthrough.

A senior EU official confirmed that a draft text had been agreed. EU leaders could meet on Nov. 25 for a summit to seal the Brexit deal if May's cabinet approves the text, diplomatic sources said.

Sterling, which has seesawed since reaching $1.50 just before Britain's 2016 referendum that saw a 52-48 percent margin for leaving the EU, surged to $1.3036.

Brexit will pitch the world's fifth largest economy into the unknown and many fear it will help to divide the West as it grapples with both the unconventional presidency of Donald Trump and growing assertiveness from Russia and China.

Supporters of Brexit say that while the divorce might bring some short-term instability, in the longer term it will allow the United Kingdom to thrive and also enable deeper EU integration without such a powerful reluctant member.

SELLING BREXIT

The EU and Britain need an agreement to keep trade flowing between the world's biggest trading bloc and the United Kingdom, home to the biggest international financial centre.

But May has struggled to untangle nearly 46 years of EU membership without damaging commerce or upsetting lawmakers who will ultimately decide the fate of the divorce deal.

By seeking to leave the EU while preserving the closest possible ties, May's compromise plan has upset Brexiteers, pro-Europeans, Scottish nationalists, the Northern Irish party that props up her government, and some of her own ministers.

News of the deal prompted eurosceptic opponents to promise to scuttle it in parliament, where, ever since losing a snap 2017 election, May has had to rely on the support of 10 Northern Irish lawmakers for her majority.

It looks like she will have a mountain to climb.

"The trick will be for Theresa May, can she satisfy everyone? It is going to be a very, very hard sell, I would have thought, but let's wait and see the actual detail," Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) deputy leader Nigel Dodds said.

The opposition Labour Party, which has said it would oppose any agreement that does not retain "the exact same" economic benefits that it now has with the EU, said it was unlikely the announced deal was right for Britain.

Prominent Brexiteers such as Conservative lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said May had sold out the United Kingdom and that they would oppose it.

"It is vassal state stuff," Johnson said, adding that he would vote against such an unacceptable accord. "Chuck it out."

IRELAND

With less than five months until Britain leaves the EU, the so-called Northern Irish backstop was the main outstanding issue that held up the deal.

The backstop is an insurance policy to avoid a return to controls on the border between the British province of Northern Ireland and EU member state Ireland if a future trading relationship is not agreed in time.

It remained unclear what had been agreed on the Irish border. The British government supplied no immediate details on the Brexit deal text, which runs to hundreds of pages.

According to Irish broadcaster RTE, the backstop would come in the form of a temporary UK-wide customs arrangement, with specific provisions for Northern Ireland which go deeper on the issue of customs and alignment with the rules of the EU single market than for the rest of the United Kingdom.

It will also include an agreed review mechanism, RTE said, adding that it understood there was still "further shuttling" to be done between London and Brussels.

The pro-Brexit DUP has ruled out any deal that treats Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK. (Additional reporting by William James, Kylie MacLellan, Andrew MacAskill, Kate Holton and Alistair Smout in London and Alistair Macdonald in Brussels; writing by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by David Stamp)

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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