Theresa May will reveal the Cabinet’s verdict on her Brexit plan in a dramatic statement in Downing Street tonight.
The PM is facing the threat of resignations senior ministers over the draft plan thrashed out with Brussels – with a mass exodus almost certain to evict her from Downing Street.
Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt, among those closest to the edge, is believed to have been demanding assurances from the premier on key points.
And Scottish Secretary David Mundell has emerged as a potential risk after he signed a letter warning against giving away fishing rights as part of the agreement.
Mrs May delivered an impassioned defence of the package at PMQs earlier, insisting it was a ‘significant’ step forward in taking the UK out of the EU.
But she was warned she is making a ‘shambolic mess’ of the talks amid a massive backlash from Eurosceptics and Remainers – and her own MPs said she was ‘not delivering the Brexit people voted for’.
The stormy session came as Boris Johnson vented fury over a leaked note claiming the deal means the UK will have to ‘swallow’ EU rules for good.
The former foreign secretary urged ministers to ‘live up to their responsibilities’ by blocking the agreement from going forward.
Theresa May arrived back at Downing Street for the Cabinet meeting today after delivering an impassioned defence of the package at PMQs
Aid Secretary Penny Mordaunt was summoned to Downing Street for pre-Cabinet talks this morning, amid rumours she is considering quitting. And she was one of the first to arrive for the Cabinet meeting this afternoon
Environment Secretary Michael Gove (left) is said to be ‘tense’, while Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom has deep misgivings about some of the compromises in negotiations with Brussels
Boris Johnson highlighted the remarks by Ms Weyand as he urged ministers to ‘stop this deal’
A draft Brexit deal agreed – but how WILL May get it through (and save her job)?
Theresa May has struck a Brexit deal with Brussels – but now has to sell it to her Cabinet and then Parliament.
Here is how events could develop now a draft agreement has been reached.
Special Cabinet, November 14
What will happen? The Cabinet has assembled in Downing Street to make a decision about whether to adopt the plan.
Britain’s most senior minsters are likely to have an extensive and frank discussion about the terms of the deal. The meeting, in Downing Street’s Cabinet Room, will be the last opportunity to make clear criticism and disagreement.
What if Cabinet cannot agree? Anyone who cannot agree to the plan or who attacks it after will be expected to resign or face the sack.
Much like after the one on one meetings, no individual resignation will sink the Government but a raft of people quitting could collapse the Government.
Chances of no deal would rocket as there is little time to negotiate a new deal.
What if there is agreement? At the end of the meeting, Mrs May will likely sum up and ask her Cabinet to endorse the plan.
Once the Cabinet has agreed, they are all bound by a ‘collective responsibility’ to defend it in public.
Emergency EU Summit, Brussels, late November
What will happen? If the divorce package is agreed between the two sides, it will need to be signed off by EU leaders.
EU council president Donald Tusk will convene a summit where formal approval will be given by EU leaders. This is expected sometime between November 22 and 25.
Will the whole deal be agreed? The Brexit deal is due to come in two parts – a formal divorce treaty and a political declaration on what the final trade deal might look like.
The second part may not be finished until a regular EU summit due on December 13-14.
Assuming the negotiations have reached an agreement and Mrs May travels to Brussels with her Cabinet’s support, this stage should be a formality.
What if there is no agreement? If EU leaders do not sign off on the deal at this stage, no deal becomes highly likely – there is just no time left to negotiate a wholly new deal.
The so-called ‘meaningful vote’ in the UK Parliament, December 2019
What will happen: A debate, probably over more than one day, will be held in the House of Commons on terms of the deal.
It will end with a vote on whether or not MPs accept the deal. More than one vote might happen if MPs are allowed to table amendments.
The vote is only happening after MPs forced the Government to accept a ‘meaningful vote’ in Parliament on the terms of the deal.
What happens if May wins? If the meaningful vote is passed, there will be a series of further votes as the withdrawal treaty is written into British law.
It will be a huge political victory for the Prime Minister and probably secure her version of Brexit.
What happens if she loses? This is possibly the most dangerous stage of all.
The Prime Minister will have to stake her political credibility on winning a vote and losing it would be politically devastating.
Brexiteers do not want to sign off the divorce bill without a satisfactory trade deal and Remainers are reluctant to vote for a blind Brexit.
She could go back to Brussels to ask for new concessions before a second vote but many think she would have to resign quickly.
Ratification in the EU, February 2019
What will happen? After the meaningful vote in the UK, the EU will have to ratify the agreement.
The European Parliament must also vote in favour of the deal. It has a representative in the talks, Guy Verhofstadt, who has repeatedly warned the deal must serve the EU’s interests.
Will it be agreed? In practice, once the leaders of the 27 member states have agreed a deal, ratification on the EU side should be assured.
If the deal has passed the Commons and she is still in office, this should not be dangerous for the Prime Minister.
Exit day, March 29, 2019
At 11pm on March 29, 2019, Britain will cease to be a member of the European Union, two years after triggering Article 50 and almost three years after the referendum.
Exit happens at 11pm because it must happen on EU time.
If the transition deal is in place, little will change immediately – people will travel in the same way as today and goods will cross the border normally.
But Britain’s MEPs will no longer sit in the European Parliament and British ministers will no longer take part in EU meetings.
Negotiations will continue to turn the political agreement on the future partnership into legal text that will eventually become a second treaty. Both sides will build new customs and immigration controls in line with what this says.
Transition ends, December 2020
The UK’s position will undergo a more dramatic change at the end of December 2020, when the ‘standstill’ transition is due to finish.
If the negotiations on a future trade deal are complete, that could come into force.
But if they are still not complete the Irish border ‘backstop’ plan could be triggered.
Under current thinking, that means the UK staying in the EU customs union and more regulatory checks between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland.
Eurosceptics fear this arrangement will prevent the country striking trade deals elsewhere, and could effectively last for ever, as Brussels will have no incentive to negotiate a replacement deal.
Mrs May spent much of the morning engaged in frantic efforts to win over wavering ministers to the blueprint ahead of the Cabinet meeting.
Irish PM Leo Varadkar has revealed that if she is successful an EU summit to sign off the pact will be summoned on November 25.
But Mrs May suffered a major blow when it emerged Michel Barnier’s deputy, Sabine Weyand, boasted about the divorce package in a briefing for Brussels officials.
She apparently claimed the UK will have to ‘align their rules but the EU will retain all the controls’, bragging that Britain is effectively accepting staying in the customs union for good, and will have to ‘swallow’ demands over fishing waters.
The extraordinary comments will reaffirm the fears of Brexiteers – and could tip ministers over the edge.
In a stunningly vicious backlash, Tory Eurosceptics and the DUP have warned Mrs May that her ‘days are numbered’ if she sticks to the plan.
Mr Johnson jibed today that the mooted package rules out a looser Canada-style relationship with the EU.
‘This means super-Canada impossible. Cabinet must live up to its responsibilities & stop this deal,’ he tweeted.
Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey is also considered at high risk of quitting, but the intention of others is unclear. Cabinet sources told MailOnline that things were still ‘up in the air’.
Doubts about Mr Mundell were raised when he join 12 other Scottish Tory MPs – in signing a joint letter warning the PM they could not support a deal which failed to restore ‘complete control and full sovereignty’ over the UK’s fishing waters.
Mr Mundell is among the few MPs to have viewed the draft agreement.
In the letter, the MPs warn: ‘We could not support an agreement with the EU that would prevent the UK from independently negotiating access and quota shares… We also cannot stay in the Common Fisheries Policy after December 2020.’
Mrs May might be able to survive one or two departures, but fears are running high that the whole process could spectacularly collapse.
Speaking at PMQs, Mrs May said her package ‘brings us significantly closer to delivering on what the British people voted for in the referendum’.
‘We will take back control of our laws, borders and our money. We will leave the Commons Fisheries Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy while protecting jobs, security and the integrity of our United Kingdom,’ she said.
‘I will come back to the House to update it on the outcome.’
But Tory Brexiteer Peter Bone confronted the premier with his concerns, saying: ‘If media reports about the EU agreement are in any way accurate, you are not delivering on the Brexit people voted for and today you will lose the support of many Conservative MPs and millions of voters around the country.’
Mrs May insisted she was delivering on the referendum – pointing to curbs on free movement – and added: ‘This is a deal that delivers on that vote but in doing so protect jobs, protects the integrity of the United Kingdom and protects the security of people in this country.’
She acknowledged concerns about the fallback position of the UK being closely tied to the EU’s customs union becoming a permanent situation but insisted that if the arrangement was needed it would be temporary.
‘I am aware of the concerns that there are, that we don’t want to be in a position where the European Union would find it comfortable to keep the UK in the backstop permanently,’ she told MPs. ‘That’s why any backstop has to be temporary.’
Jeremy Corbyn attacked Mrs May’s draft deal, describing it as a ‘failure in its own terms’.
The Labour leader said: ‘After two years of bungled negotiations, from what we know of the Government’s deal it’s a failure in its own terms.’
But Mrs May shot back by accusing Labour of seeking to ‘frustrate’ Brexit.
‘Time and time again he has stood up in this House and complained and said that the Government isn’t making progress, that the Government isn’t anywhere close to a deal,’ she said.
‘Now when we’re making progress and close to a deal he’s complaining about that.
At an emergency Cabinet meeting expected to run for a marathon three hours this afternoon, the PM will warn ministers it is now ‘make or break’ for avoiding a chaotic exit.
Downing Street claims it has headed off plans that could have led to Northern Ireland being ‘annexed’ by the EU after Brexit and insists it has laid the groundwork for a ‘good deal’.
But according to a note leaked to The Times, Ms Weyand told European ambassadors on Friday that the UK was getting the worst of the deal.
‘We should be in the best negotiation position for the future relationship. This requires the customs union as the basis of the future relationship,’ she said.
‘They must align their rules but the EU will retain all the controls. They apply the same rules.
‘UK wants a lot more from future relationship, so EU retains its leverage.’
She added that Britain ‘would have to swallow a link between access to products and fisheries in future agreements’.
Other notes of the remarks were apparently less inflammatory – claiming she had in fact suggested the ‘backstop’ was the ‘starting point’ for future trade talks.
Mrs May is yet to publish her 400-500 page draft EU withdrawal agreement, but it is understood to include:
- A guarantee there will no physical border checks reintroduced between Northern Ireland and the Republic;
- A backstop to avoid a hard border that would come into force after a mooted transition period in December 2020 – and last ‘unless and until’ another solution is put in place.
- Brussels is said to have dropped its demand to create a border in the Irish Sea;
- But instead the customs union would apply indefinitely to the whole of the UK and Britain could not be able to walk away from the arrangement without approval from an ‘independent panel’ made up of civil servants from the EU and Britain;
- There could also be enhanced regulatory checks between mainland Britain and Northern Ireland;
- Commitments to ensure a ‘level playing field’ during the backstop including accepting EU rules on environmental and labour standards and state aid;
- A review due to be held in July 2020, towards the end of the transition period, will decide whether the backstop needs to come into force;
- The three million EU citizens living in the UK and one million British citizens living in the EU will keep all their existing rights post-Brexit;
- A divorce bill of between £39billion and £46billion will be paid to Brussels;
Mrs May faces a day that could make or break her deal – and decide her political fate.
After PMQs at noon, she will plead with the Cabinet to back her at an emergency meeting.
In Dublin Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will meet with Ireland’s cabinet at 9.30am to discuss Britain’s draft deal.
But Brexiteers including Mr Johnson are scrambling to sink the agreement before it gains any momentum and force Mrs May to go back to Brussels to renegotiate.
DUP leader Arlene Foster – whose 10 MPs are propping Mrs May up in power – is flying to London for crisis talks and to read the Withdrawal Agreement in full.
Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley (left) is a close ally of the PM, while Dominic Raab (right) is expected to hang on despite serious doubts
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s endorsement will be critical if Mrs May is to get her proposals past Cabinet
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, an eminent QC and staunch Brexiteer, has emerged as a key figure in wrangling over the Irish border ‘backstop’. Treasury minister Liz Truss (right) is also among those joining the session
Flanked by senior ministers in the Commons today, Mrs May tried to put a brave face on her Brexit woes
Boris Johnson (right) arrived at Parliament today on his bike as he led criticism of the Brexit blueprint thrashed out by the government
The DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson warned today that the party would not ‘vote for this humiliation’
‘The PM is very clear about where we stand on all of this,’ she told reporters before leaving. ‘As you know we’ve written to her, she’s very clear that we cannot be separated from the rest of the UK, either in terms of customs or indeed in terms of regulatory alignment either.’
Ominously, she stressed that the party’s confidence and supply deal was with the Tories rather than Mrs May personally.
DUP chief whip Jeffrey Donaldson upped the pressure by making clear it was currently determined to reject the proposals.
How Boris and Rees-Mogg ambushed the PM’s Brexit plan
Boris Johnson was live on TV in central lobby within minutes of the deal emerging last night (pictured) as the Tory rebels launched an ambush on the plans
Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg joined forces with the DUP to launch an ambush on Theresa May’s Brexit deal within minutes of it emerging last night.
Tory rebels dramatically marched to Parliament’s Central Lobby – flanked by the bloc of DUP MPs who are supposed to be propping up Mrs May in No 10 – to hold court with journalists.
In a furious briefing before a deal was even confirmed by Downing Street, they derided it as ‘totally unacceptable’ because it would leave the UK a ‘vassal state’ under the yolk of EU control.
Mr Johnson and Mr Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Brexiteer European Research Group, renewed their attack on the plans today demanding the Cabinet throw out the plan.
Last night’s ambush began within minutes of details being leaked to the Irish broadcaster RTE at around 4pm.
Just 90 minutes later the rebel MPs were speaking live to broadcasters just feet from the Commons chamber having arrived from Iain Duncan Smith’s office.
The condemnation of the plans had started before Downing Street had even confirmed it had a deal and Mrs May would meet Cabinet ministers one-on-one before a crucial meeting later today.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today the Unionist party ‘don’t fear a general election’, when asked whether it would risk Jeremy Corbyn, a long-term supporter of a united Ireland.
He said: ‘It’s not about who is prime minister, it’s not about who governs the country, it’s about the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK, that is fundamental for us.
‘And it is not just us, the DUP does not stand alone on this, we have many friends within the Conservative Party and indeed in some other parties, who believe this deal has the potential to lead to the break-up of the UK.
‘That is not something we can support.’
If the PM manages to squeeze her plan past Cabinet she will argue it represents the only chance of a deal, or risk crashing out of the EU on March 29 next year.
Mrs May appears to have convinced Brussels to drop its demand that Northern Ireland should remain in the customs union during the transition period that ends on December 31 2020.
But in return she may have agreed to a ‘level playing field’ measures tying Britain to more EU rules in that period.
Iain Duncan Smith warned last night that the Prime Minister’s ‘days were numbered’ if she tried to keep the UK tied to Brussels.
Mrs May’s ability to get a deal through Parliament was put in doubt when Eurosceptic MPs were joined at an impromptu Westminster briefing by senior figures in the Democratic Unionist Party.
They voiced fury at reports that the proposed agreement could drive a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
However, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, who was one of the leaders of the Leave campaign, is expected to back the plans.
Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid and Geoffrey Cox, Andrea Leadsom and Chris Grayling were also thought to be on board last night.
But Cabinet sources told MailOnline this morning that things were still ‘up in the air’ – suggesting people could still change their minds.
Ms McVey and Ms Mordaunt have not yet committed, and the Aid Secretary was been summoned to Downing Street for pre-Cabinet talks this morning.
Mr Grayling, Mr Hunt, Treasury minister Liz Truss and Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright were also in No10 for meetings this morning.
Intriguingly, Mr Duncan Smith was also seen entering the famous building – although it is thought he was in to talk about a government climbdown over delays to curbs on ‘crack cocaine’ gambling machines.
As she left home today, Mrs Leadsom told journalists: ‘I’ve had a good conversation with the PM and I’m looking at the details of the deal today and I’m extremely optimistic that we’ll have a good deal, but I’m looking at the details today.’
Moderate Tories accused leading Brexiteers of ‘throwing their toys out of the pram’ before they have even seen the details of the proposed withdrawal agreement.
And today former foreign secretary Lord Hague cautioned MPs that voting down Mrs May’s deal might mean ‘Brexit never happens’.
‘For the DUP… they advocated leaving the EU, they also have to face up to the fact that if they vote down a deal because they are not happy with the details, well, the consequences may be that Brexit never happens,’ he told the BBC.
However, worryingly for Mrs May, leading Tory Remainer Dominic Grieve said he currently could not support the package.
How has Theresa May tried to resolve the Irish border issue?
The Brexit divorce negotiations have boiled down to the issue of the Irish border and Theresa May is claiming victory.
The line between Northern Ireland and the Republic will be the UK’s only land border with the EU after we leave the bloc.
Brussels had initially demanded that Northern Ireland stays within its jurisdiction for customs and most single market rules to avoid a hard border.
But it appears the PM has encouraged them to back down by agreeing a deal being compared to a swimming pool.
It is understood that during the transition period lasting until the end of 2020, Northern Ireland will be in the ‘deep end’ of the pool.
NI would have a ‘special status’ to be aligned to more of the EU’s rules while mainland Britain will be in the ‘shallow end’ and have to accept fewer rules than Belfast.
Irish broadcaster RTE reported that the deal now involves one overall ‘backstop’ in the form of a UK-wide customs arrangement – as sought by Mrs May – but with deeper provisions for Northern Ireland on customs and regulations.
The Guardian reported that an independent arbitration committee will judge when a UK-wide customs backstop could be terminated.
There will also be a review in July 2019 six months before the end of the transition period, at which it will be determined how to proceed – a new trade deal, the backstop or an extension to the transition period.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox is said to have told Cabinet that Northern Ireland will be in a ‘different regulatory regime’ under the customs backstop and subject to EU law and institutions, something that may ‘cross a line’ for the DUP.
‘I could not look my constituents in the eye and say this would be a better deal than the one we have as a member of the EU,’ he said.
Former minister Philip Lee said he wanted a second referendum. ‘Where we’re going to end up is not where was promised. This is political fraud, and I’m not putting my name to it,’ he said.
Yesterday’s breakthrough came after days of gruelling negotiations in Brussels, in which both sides made further concessions.
Downing Street was tight-lipped about the contents of the withdrawal agreement, which runs to more than 400 pages of legal text.
An accompanying document on the ‘future framework’ is said to be as short as five pages, and is set to be the subject of intense negotiations.
But sources said Brussels had backed down over the controversial ‘backstop’ plan which is designed to prevent a return to a hard border in Northern Ireland if trade talks falter.
The EU had demanded a scheme that would have kept Northern Ireland in the customs union after the rest of the UK left. Brussels has now accepted a proposal that could keep the whole UK in a temporary backstop until trade terms are finalised.
A Government source said: ‘The idea of a Northern Ireland-only customs backstop has been dropped. There is no backstop to the backstop.’
Last week, seven Cabinet ministers, including the Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab warned Mrs May that the UK must have a ‘unilateral’ exit clause from the arrangement. Sajid Javid yesterday became the latest minister to warn the deal would not get through Parliament without this.
But the proposal was rejected by Brussels and is thought to have been replaced by a complex joint mechanism, which will raise Eurosceptic fears that Britain could be ‘trapped’ in a customs union against its will.
Sources said the deal allows for an independent panel to decide when the UK can leave a backstop arrangement.
It will review progress on a transition deal in July 2019 and decide if the UK is ready to switch to a free trade deal, transfer to the backstop or extend the transition period until 2021, reported the Guardian.
The EU demanded a ‘level playing field’ guarantee, which could see the UK made to follow Brussels rules during any backstop period.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the European Court of Justice would have a role in deciding when the backstop arrangement would end, something that would infuriate Eurosceptics.
The newspaper also said that the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, told the Cabinet the backstop arrangement would leave Northern Ireland under a ‘different regulatory regime subject to EU law and institutions.’
Mr Raab and the so-called ‘Brexitettes’ – Andrea Leadsom, Penny Mordaunt and Esther Mcvey – were all on No 10’s ‘resignation watch’ over the issue last night. Earlier this week, Miss Mordaunt suggested the Cabinet was ready to act as a check on Mrs May’s Brexit compromises.
But Mrs Leadsom last night hinted she would stay, saying: ‘I had a good discussion with the PM and will be at Cabinet for further conversations with colleagues tomorrow.’ A friend of Mr Raab said he appeared ‘upbeat’ about the agreement.
Scottish Secretary David Mundell said ministers would have to reflect on the detail.
Michel Barnier (pictured in Brussels this week) seemed to make a bid to bounce the UK into a deal, after he briefed EU ambassadors a deal was ‘largely’ done
Irish news organisations claimed the agreement involved deeper customs and regulatory checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, breaching a DUP ‘red line’.
A Whitehall source last night dismissed this claim as Dublin ‘spin’. The source warned there was no realistic prospect of further concessions from Brussels, adding: ‘It’s make or break time. This is the basis for a good deal, but the negotiators are clear they have taken this as far as they can.’
The DUP said it had been kept in the dark, raising doubts about the future of the confidence and supply deal that props up Mrs May’s minority government at Westminster.
Speaking on Ireland’s broadcaster RTE the Democratic Unionist Party’s Sammy Wilson said it was not a deal that his party could support.
‘What we’ve heard and seen of the deal it is something which we would absolutely oppose,’ Mr Wilson said.
So what has been agreed with the EU?
Ireland: The Prime Minister has killed off EU demands for a Northern Ireland-only ‘backstop’ designed to prevent a hard border with the Republic. However, in its place is a ‘temporary’ plan that could see the whole UK stay in a form of customs union until a trade deal is finalised.
Regulations: The UK is set to have to follow most single market regulations during any backstop period. Theresa May has said she wants the UK to continue following a ‘common rule book’ for goods and farm products in the final trade deal – a move opposed by Brexiteers.
Money: The Brexit deal will confirm a £39billion ‘divorce payment’ to the EU and is expected to outline a mechanism for agreeing additional payments in the event of an extended transition.
Trade: The deal is expected to contain only a brief ‘political declaration’ on future trade arrangements. Ministers hope to beef this up before MPs are asked to vote on the deal next month.
Citizens: The deal will guarantee the existing rights of the three million EU citizens living in the UK and the one million Britons living in Europe. But the EU is still pushing for the UK’s new immigration system to grant preferential treatment to EU citizens in return for a better trade deal.
‘It goes against everything the Government promised it would deliver. Indeed it’s a regurgitation of what the Prime Minister said last March, no British Prime Minister could ever sign up to and it would split the United Kingdom.
‘It would keep the UK tied and handcuffed to the European Union with the key for those handcuffs remaining in the hands of the EU.’
He added: ‘I don’t think it’s only us who will be opposing it.’
Members of the European Research Group urged ministers to block the deal. Chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg said: ‘It is a failure of the Government’s negotiating position, it is a failure to deliver on Brexit and it is potentially dividing up the United Kingdom.’
Former foreign secretary Mr Johnson said: ‘For the first time in a thousand years, this place, this Parliament, will not have a say over the laws that govern this country. It is a quite incredible state of affairs.’
But moderate MPs suggested the Eurosceptic response had little to do with the details of the deal.
Simon Hart, founder of the Brexit Delivery Group of MPs, which is backing efforts to strike a deal, said: ‘This is now judgement day. Every minister and MP needs to weigh up what’s on offer, compare it with alternative outcomes and make their decision and live with the consequences.
‘Using this moment to play politics or grandstand will rightly be greeted with dismay by all our voters, irrespective of whether they voted to leave or remain.
‘We are looking for calm assessment of the position, not the political hysteria which has been all too frequent when discussing Europe.’
EU diplomats yesterday said they believe the moment of truth on whether a Brexit deal has been reached will emerge today when Michel Barnier’s team updates member states in Brussels.
The meeting had originally been intended only to cover no-deal preparedness but has now had ‘state of play’ on the talks added to the agenda. It has also been shifted forward two hours.
One diplomat said: ‘The ball is on the side of the UK and its internal processes. It’s now for Theresa May’s Cabinet to decide if it is satisfied.’
Further Brussels sources last night said the deal would include a review before the end of the transition to determine whether to trigger the Irish backstop.
Who are the Cabinet ministers who could resign over Brexit and how damaging would their exits be?
With the Brexit deal thrashed out in principle between the UK and EU negotiating teams, Theresa May now faces the tough challenge of getting her Cabinet to support it.
Here are the Cabinet ministers who Number Ten fear could walk over the agreement, and an assessment of how damaging their departures could be.
The Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey (pictured in Downing St today) is one of the Cabinet’s leading Brexiteers
Esther McVey, Work and Pensions Secretary
Ms McVey is one of the cabinet’s leading Brexiteers.
She was said to have been unhappy at the way the Brexit talks were heading fearing that the plan for an Irish border backstop could keep Britain trapped inside the EU customs union.
She was only promoted to the Cabinet in January this year, is not a household name, and did not play a big role in the Leave campaign as she did not have a parliamentary seat when the Brexit referendum was run.
Damage score: 4/10
As Britain’s second Brexit Secretary in six months, Dominic Raab (pictured in Downing Street today) is a central player in the Cabinet
Dominic Raab, Brexit Secretary
As Britain’s second Brexit Secretary in six months, Mr Raab is a central player in the Cabinet.
The ardent Brexiteer was one of the faces of the Vote Leave campaign, and was promoted to his post in June after David Davis quit in fury at the Chequers plan.
While he has maintained his loyalty to Theresa May publicly, he has been a fierce critic of EU blocking the UK from ensuring it could leave the EU customs union unilaterally. Losing a second Brexit Secretary in six months would be hugely damaging to the PM.
Damage score : 9/10
Andrea Leadsom (pictured in Downing Street last month) was a leading face with Vote Leave
Andrea Leadsom, leader of the Commons
Another leading campaigner with the Vote leave campaign, she had been a contender for the Tory leadership before withdrawing – clearing the way for Theresa May’s coronation.
She is a committed Brexiteer who has largely kept out of the rows over the PM’s strategy. But she pointedly refused to back Mrs May to stay on as Prime Minister in the long-run last month.
Damage Score: 6/10
Michael Gove (pictured in Downing St yesterday) was the frontman of the Vote Leave campaign alongside Boris Johnson
Michael Gove, Environment Secretary
Alongside Boris Johnson, Micheal Gove was the frontman of the Vote Leave campaign – breaking ranks with his long-time and close friend David Cameron to campaign to quit the EU.
After the resignations of Mr Johnson and David Davis, he is one of the final leading Brexiteers still sticking with Mrs May and in the Cabinet.
His resignation would be a body bow to the PM – and a sign that she had finally lost support of most of the Brexiteer wing of her party.
Damage Score: 9/10
Penny Mordaunt (pictured in Downing Street) never explicitly backed Theresa May’s Chequers Brexit plan – only saying that she backed the PM.
Penny Mordaunt, International Development Secretary
A leading Brexiteer popular with Tory MPs, Penny Mordaunt was promoted to the Cabinet last November.
She never explicitly backed Theresa May’s Chequers Brexit plan – only saying that she backed the PM.
She is often named as one of the Cabinet ministers most likely to walk over Brexit – but if she does go she risks cutting her cabinet career short.
Damage Score: 5/10
Liam Fox (pictured in Downing Street yesterday) long-time Brexiteer, he was one of the trio of leading Eurosceptics – alongside Boris Johnson and David Davis – elevated to the Cabinet after Theresa May was made Tory leader
Liam Fox, International Trade Secretary
A long-time Brexiteer, he was one of the trio of leading Eurosceptics – alongside Boris Johnson and David Davis – elevated to the Cabinet after Theresa May was made Tory leader.
He has largely stayed out of the political Brexit rows which have plunged the PM’s government into one crisis after another.
But if he did quit it would show that Mrs May is losing her influence over the Brexiteers.
Damage Score: 6/10
Who were the key power brokers on each side of the talks?
Both Britain and the EU had teams of negotiators hammering out the final stages of the deal working late into the night.
The two sides were led by a group of powerful individuals at the head of small armies of officials tasked with turning political deals into cold legal text.
In the final days the teams have worked until the small hours to finalise a deal that could be put to an emergency summit later this month. Talks on Sunday night ran until 2.45am.
The final deal is thought to be at least 500 pages long and civil servants on both sides have spent months hammering out the detailed legal language.
The treaty includes clauses on the divorce payment, rights of nationals on both sides and crucially how the Irish border will work.
The key players on each side were:
Drafted in to replace David Davis in July, Raab was ordered to deliver the Chequers plan as Theresa May’s political representative in the talks.
A committed Brexiteer, he was part of the Vote Leave campaign and leading DEXEU was his first Cabinet job.
Unlike his predecessor, Raab was explicitly appointed to deputise for the Prime Minister in the talks rather than personally lead them – but has been the point man in Brussels.
Prime Minister’s Europe adviser
At around 6ft 3in, the burly civil servant certainly looks like he won’t be messed with, but is best known in Whitehall for his intellect.
Only 43, the Oxford PPE graduate has already served in senior roles for David Cameron, Theresa May and Gordon Brown.
Brexiteers have repeatedly criticised him for dragging the talks toward a soft deal.
Chief EU Brexit negotiator
A seasoned French official was once called an ‘enemy of Britain’ for trying to impose controls on the City.
Ambitious, he is distrusted in some UK quarters, but is also known as an ultra-charming negotiator.
Brexit role has made him a ‘rock star’ figure in Brussels.
Promised a hard-line approach throughout the talks and never deviated from the rules handed to him by EU leaders.
Michel Barnier’s deputy
A former student at Cambridge in the 1980s and seen as one ‘the best and brightest’ of the Brussels technocrats.
The German has more than 20 years’ experience carving out trade deals for the Commission.
Can be brusque but is known as a problem-solver.
Brexit Secretary DOominic Raab and EU negotiator Michel Barnier have led the teams finalising the deal in recent weeks