The decision is in the best interests of the entire United Kingdom, says Prime Minister
British Prime Minister Theresa May scored a significant political victory as she announced at the end of a length Cabinet meeting that the Cabinet would back the draft text of the withdrawal agreement negotiated with the European Union (EU).
“I firmly believe with my head and my heart that this is a decision that is in the best interests of the entire United Kingdom,” a tired, but relieved-looking Ms. May told reporters outside Downing Street on Wednesday evening.
Earlier, striking a note of defiance, she insisted in Parliament that the deal she had struck with the EU negotiators was one that delivered on what the British people voted for, as she faced critics from within her own party, allies and Opposition over the terms that had been agreed.
“I am confident it takes us significantly closer to what people voted for,” she told MPs during a heated session of Prime Ministers Questions that took place ahead of the Cabinet meeting.
Britain would take back control of its borders and money, she insisted, pointing to the end of the free movement of EU citizens within the U.K., while providing guarantees for those already resident here.
Criticism from all sides
The agreement has triggered criticism from across the political spectrum. Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn accused Ms. May of conducting bungled negotiations that resulted in a deal that breached the very criteria of success the government had set itself.
Far from offering Parliament a meaningful say, it offered parliamentarians a “false choice” between a botched deal and no deal, said Mr. Corbyn.
However, at the other end of the political spectrum, Conservative MP Peter Bone accused Ms. May of not delivering on the vote of the British people. “You will lose the support of many Conservative MPs and millions of voters across the country,” he said. Earlier in the day, the Democratic Unionist Party, on whose votes the government is reliant, also expressed scepticism over the deal and whether it maintained the territorial integrity of the whole of the U.K.
Crucial Cabinet meeting
The Cabinet meeting was seen as a crucial moment for Ms. May and her ability to rally a highly divided Cabinet behind her. While there have been no Cabinet resignations so far, senior figures such as Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt are yet to publicly voice support for the deal.
There have already been a number of high-profile ministerial resignations in recent months over the negotiations, including those of former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, former Transport Secretary Jo Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis.
However, despite Ms. May winning the Cabinet’s support, there remains a long route ahead: the EU will have to seek endorsement from individual member states, while the deal will also have to make it through the U.K. Parliament, facing down growing calls for a second referendum.
However, the Cabinet approval could lead to an EU summit later this month, which is seen as crucial for ensuring that reaching a deal — rather than plunging out of the EU without one — remains a possibility for the U.K., within the time-frame set out by the government. Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said that a summit could take place as soon as November 25.