LONDON — Theresa May faces a fresh rebellion from her Cabinet that could yet force her to rip up the deal she has just signed with EU leaders.
EU leaders agreed to the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement in Brussels at a special summit on Sunday.
European Council president Donald Tusk said on Sunday morning that an agreement had been reached.
“EU27 has endorsed the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration on the future EU-UK relations,” he tweeted.
However, as May signed up Britain to the terms of the deal agreed in principle last week, members of her Cabinet at home threatened to force her to throw out the deal if and when it is rejected by the UK parliament.
With all opposition parties and up to 80 Conservative MPs pledged to oppose May’s deal when it comes to the House of Commons, Remainer ministers in her Cabinet are pushing for the prime minister to seek an alternative deal that would leave Britain with a closer relationship with the EU after Brexit.
Five ministers, led by the Chancellor Philip Hammond are reportedly pushing for May to adopt a permanent customs partnership with the EU that could potentially draw the support of Labour MPs as well as the Democratic Unionist Party that has propped up her minority government.
Meanwhile the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up her minority government, threatened towithdraw their support for the Conservatives if the deal is agreed by the UK parliament.
Asked on Sunday if there were any circumstances in which her party would back May’s deal in parliament, Foster told the BBC: “no there aren’t.”
She added that the DUP would “review” their agreement to prop up May’s government if the deal were passed by Parliament.
“If [Parliament] did decide to back this deal we would have to decide to review the confidence and supply agreement,” she said.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said on Saturday that she would be willing to support a Norway-style soft Brexit as long as it prevented any new border and custom controls between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
One senior Conservative told the Sunday Times that any attempt to force a hard no-deal Brexit would lead to a mass walkout from Cabinet: “If she said she’d go for mitigated no deal, she would lose most of her cabinet. And this time she wouldn’t be losing Esther McVey and Dominic Raab, she’d be losing her most senior ministers. Hammond, Rudd, Lidington, Gauke and Clark would all resign.”
Meanwhile, Cabinet Brexiteers, including the leader of the House Andrea Leadsom are also poised to quit if May moves any further towards accepting a closer relationship with the EU after Brexit.
Speaking on the BBC, the Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt acknowledged that May’s deal “isn’t perfect” and admitted that it would struggle to make its way through parliament and may even lead to the collapse of the government if it is voted dow.
Asked whether the deal would leave Britain better off than remaining in the EU, he told the Andrew Marr programme that “We won’t be significantly worse off or better off.”
As the deal was signed multiple EU leaders warned that they bloc would not be prepared to renegotiate the deal.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters that the EU would “not change its fundamental position” on Brexit, adding that this “is the best deal possible.”
This position was backed by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
This is the deal on the table,” Rutte told reporters. “I don’t think there is anything more … in general, this is the max we can all do, both Theresa May and her government as well as the EU.”
In an open letter to the nation written ahead of today’s summit, May promised to bring the country together with her deal.
“I want that to be a moment of renewal and reconciliation for our whole country,” she writes.
“It must mark the point when we put aside the labels of ‘leave’ or ‘remain’ for good and we come together again as one people. To do that we need to get on with Brexit now by getting behind this deal. I will be campaigning with my heart and soul to win that vote.”