- The UK and the European Union have agreed on the wording for Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
- Negotiators on Thursday struck a draft agreement on the text of the political declaration that outlines aspirations for the future shape of the UK’s relationship with the EU.
- The 26-page text, seen by Business Insider, states the shared aim of UK and the EU to negotiate on “an ambitious, wide-ranging and balanced economic partnership” once the UK has left the EU.
- May is holding a Cabinet conference call Thursday morning to discuss the political declaration with ministers.
LONDON – The UK and the European Union have agreed on a political declaration outlining the shape of their relationship after Brexit.
Donald Tusk, the European Council’s president, said on Thursday morning that a text had been “agreed at negotiators’ level and agreed in principle at political level,” paving the way for an overall Brexit deal to be signed off.
Speaking on Downing Street, Prime Minister Theresa May said she had secured “the right deal for the UK.”
“It delivers on the vote of the referendum,” she said. “It brings back control of our borders, our money, and our laws, and it does so while protecting jobs, our security, and protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom.”
She said she would make a statement to Parliament on Thursday afternoon before returning to Brussels to sign off on the agreement at the weekend.
“I am confident on Sunday we will be able to agree a deal that delivers for the whole UK family, including Gibraltar,” May said.
“That deal is within our grasp, and I am determined to deliver it.”
Watch Theresa May: ‘That deal is within our grasp’
The 26-page text, seen by Business Insider, states the shared aim of UK and the EU to negotiate on “an ambitious, wide-ranging and balanced economic partnership” once the UK has left the EU.
May’s spokesman said that while “further progress” had been made in negotiations, the deal would not be done until it was approved by the European Council at a meeting on Sunday.
Privately, UK officials suggest there could be further attempts to pick apart the agreement over the coming days.
“What became apparent last night was the need to get this locked down to preserve the gains we had made,” one senior government source told Business Insider.
In particular, the issue of Gibraltar, which is not mentioned in the leaked political declaration, is still not fully agreed with Spain.
“It’s clear there are still issues to resolve there,” the source said.
What’s contained in the political declaration?
The political declaration is not legally binding but explains what sort of deal the UK and the EU aspire to negotiate after Britain leaves the EU.
The document says the future trade deal should be based on “deep” cooperation in customs and regulations but cannot undermine the “indivisibility” of the EU’s single market and four freedoms.
But it falls short of proposing “frictionless trade” as aspired to in May’s Chequers proposals. It also says the future trade deal should “build and improve” on the customs arrangement included in the backstop proposals, meaning the UK would be wedded to EU customs rules on a permanent basis, unable to sign free-trade deals with other counties in certain areas.
On the thorny issue of the Northern Irish border, the text says the two sides share a “determination” to find “alternative arrangements” for ensuring the backstop for avoiding a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland doesn’t need to be used.
Under the backstop proposal, the UK would effectively remain in the EU’s customs union, with Northern Ireland sticking to parts of the single market until another way of preserving the frictionless Irish border could be implemented.
Pro-Brexit MPs and the Democratic Unionist Party MPs who prop up May’s government oppose this, as it could keep the UK in a customs union for years after Brexit and create border checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
Downing Street claims to have achieved a victory, however, by securing a passage in the declaration setting out that the creation of “alternative arrangements” including technological solutions could allow for the backstop to come to an end – a key demand of some Conservative Brexiteers.
May is set to make a statement to MPs on the latest breakthrough in Brexit talks at some point after 2:30 p.m. GMT.
The prime minister is scheduled to travel to Brussels this weekend for an EU summit where member states are set to sign off on the Brexit withdrawal agreement before it is put to parliamentary votes in Westminster and Brussels.
Anti-Brexit campaigners said the text was a “victory for vagueness” and lacked detail on Britain’s future.
“The political declaration appears to represent very little movement on what is already a bad deal, merely a series of tiny fig leaves in a desperate eleventh-hour attempt to stem a mass rebellion on the backbenches of the Conservative Party,” Labour MP Stephen Doughty, a Best For Britain supporter, said.
The pound surged more than 1.1% against the dollar following news of the latest breakthrough in talks.
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