Brexit deal in the balance

By Eliza Mackintosh and Rob Picheta

Updated 7:39 a.m. ET, November 19, 2018
19 Posts
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3:42 p.m. ET, November 14, 2018

The draft Brexit deal is 585 pages long

The text of the Brexit "withdrawal agreement" is 585 pages and now available to the public, CNN's Erin McLaughlin reported.

The draft agreement was just published online and copies were distributed to members of the European Commission.

"All 585 pages now available for the public to scrutinize. This will no doubt be looked at by Remainers and Brexiteers very closely there in the United Kingdom," McLaughlin noted.

The European Commission and Downing Street had copies of the text and were keeping details of the agreement under wraps, she reported.

"They were worried about the optics of this situation. They are very aware that Theresa May is in an incredibly fragile, predicament. Now that the Cabinet has given a green light to this deal it has been published," McLaughlin said.

Watch more:

3:42 p.m. ET, November 14, 2018

Read the full text of Theresa May's Brexit statement

Here in its entirety is the full statement as delivered by Theresa May in Downing Street after the nearly five-hour cabinet meeting.

Read it:

The Cabinet has just had a long, detailed and impassioned debate on the draft withdrawal agreement and on the outline political declaration on our future relationship with the European Union.
These documents were the result of thousands of hours of hard negotiation by UK officials and many, many meetings which I and other ministers held with our EU counterparts.
I firmly believe that the draft withdrawal agreement was the best that could be negotiated and it was for the cabinet to decide whether to move on in the talks.
The choices before us were difficult, particularly in relation to the Northern Ireland backstop, but the collective decision of cabinet was that the government should agree the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration.
This is a decisive step which enables us to move on and finalise the deal in the days ahead.
These decisions were not taken lightly but I believe it is a decision that is firmly in the national interest.
When you strip away the detail the choice before us is clear. This deal, which delivers on the vote of the referendum, which brings us back control of our money, laws and borders, ends free movement, protects jobs, security and our union, or leave with no deal, or no Brexit at all.
I know that there will be difficult days ahead. This is a decision which will come under intense scrutiny, and that is entirely as it should be, and entirely understandable.
But the choice was this deal, which enables us to take back control and build a brighter future for our country, or going back to square one, with more division, more uncertainty, and the failure to deliver on the referendum.
It’s my job as prime minister to explain the decisions that the government has taken, and I stand ready to do that, beginning tomorrow with a statement in parliament.
Let me end by just saying this; I believe that what I owe to this country is to take decisions that are in the national interest and I firmly believe, with my head and my heart, that this is a decision that is in the best interests of our entire United Kingdom.
3:13 p.m. ET, November 14, 2018

Theresa May has seized the upper hand

Analysis by CNN's Luke McGee in London

British Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a Brexit statement at Downing Street on Nov.  14, 2018 in London, England.
British Prime Minister Theresa May delivers a Brexit statement at Downing Street on Nov. 14, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

After all the months of wrangling and amid all the talk of a brewing vote of no-confidence, Theresa May’s statement outside the iconic black door of 10 Downing Street was a moment of great political theater.

In their five-hour meeting, described by May as "long, detailed and impassioned," Cabinet ministers may have voiced deep concerns about the withdrawal agreement secured by UK negotiators. But the British principle of collective Cabinet responsibility means that, at the end of the day, they’re either with May or against her. That allowed the Prime Minister to stride confidently down the steps of No. 10 and deliver a strong statement on behalf of the entire Cabinet to the waiting media.

What this means: It's still possible that one or two ministers could resign, or that hardline Brexiteers or Remainers might yet band together to challenge May's leadership. But for now, the Prime Minister is in the strongest position she's been in for months.

There will be more rocky moments ahead — not least the "meaningful vote" on the deal that the government has promised the UK parliament.

The intrigue will no doubt continue in Westminster, but it’s clear tonight who has the upper hand.

3:37 p.m. ET, November 14, 2018

Theresa May: British Cabinet supports Brexit draft agreement

British Prime Minister Theresa May says her Cabinet has decided to support a draft European Union withdrawal agreement.

“I firmly believe the draft agreement was the best we could negotiate,” May said to media gathered outside of 10 Downing Street, after the five-hour meeting ended. May will address Parliament on Thursday.

"This is a decisive step, which enables us to move on and finalize the deal in the days ahead. These decisions were not taken lightly, but I believe it's a decision that's firmly in the national interest," she added.

Watch more:

2:24 p.m. ET, November 14, 2018

Theresa May could face vote of no-confidence

From CNN's Luke McGee in London

There is feverish speculation in Westminster that whatever the outcome of the Cabinet meeting, Theresa May will face a vote of no-confidence precipitated by her own Conservative Party.

According to party rules, 48 MPs must submit letters to the chairman of the 1922 Committee — the group that represents all Conservative MPs — to trigger a confidence vote in the party leader. The only person who knows how many letters have been submitted is Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of that committee. He has not said anything in public today.

The key to all of this: The European Research Group (ERG). It is a group of about 40 Conservative MPs who favor a clean break from the European Union and whose members have voiced deep concerns with May’s negotiating strategy. Until now, the ERG has kept its powder dry. But today, Conor Burns, a member of the ERG, indicated to Sky News that its position may be changing.

"There comes a point where if the PM is insistent that she will not change the policy, then the only way to change the policy is to change the personnel,” he told Sky, according to a tweet by correspondent Tom Rayner.

If she survives the vote, May would be immune from another challenge for a year, according to party rules. But the very fact of a confidence vote is hanging over May would be deeply damaging, and would add to the air of crisis surrounding her leadership.

2:00 p.m. ET, November 14, 2018

Ambassadors from 27 other EU countries remain tight-lipped after draft deal meeting

From CNN's Matt Wells

A pro-Brexit bus is driven along Whitehall on Nov. 14, 2018 in London, England.
A pro-Brexit bus is driven along Whitehall on Nov. 14, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Theresa May’s Cabinet meeting has now been going on for more than four hours.

But in Brussels, Belgium, a meeting of ambassadors from the other 27 European Union member nations has ended.

Ambassadors are remaining tight-lipped: Like everyone else, they are awaiting the outcome of the Cabinet meeting in London.

12:47 p.m. ET, November 14, 2018

Here's what the deal would mean for business, markets and the economy

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová

The United Kingdom has taken a big step towards securing a Brexit deal with the European Union. For businesses, the agreement would deliver much-needed certainty about the next two years.

Here's how the deal would affect business, markets and the economy.

  • Business: While details are thin, the deal includes a transition period during which most trading rules for companies in Britain will remain the same. However, some reports suggest that financial services companies could see their access to EU markets reduced. One more problem: The deal only covers the divorce terms, and doesn't give businesses any clarity about a future trading relationship between the United Kingdom and its biggest trading partner following the transition.
  • The markets: The pound has been volatile since Brits voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, and it's still trading almost 14% lower than on the day of the referendum. Analysts said it would strengthen following a deal. If a deal can't be struck and Britain crashes out of the bloc, S&P estimates the pound will slump 15% against the dollar.
  • The economy: Economists say a Brexit deal would boost the beleaguered UK economy. Berenberg bank estimates that a deal would lift economic growth to 2% in 2019, from 1.3% this year. A chaotic Brexit, without a deal, could sink the economy into a prolonged recession, S&P warned last month.
12:06 p.m. ET, November 14, 2018

Theresa May expected to speak after Cabinet meeting

From CNN's Laura Smith-Spark

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is expected to give a speech outside 10 Downing St after the Cabinet meeting on the UK's draft deal with the European Union concludes, Downing Street said.

Among those at the meeting is UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, who took over the role after David Davis resigned in July over the Brexit deal put forward by May. A long-standing supporter of leaving the EU, Raab was ridiculed last week for comments he made on trade.

Also present is Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, a pro-Remain figure who has previously warned that the government would be forced to implement an emergency budget should the Prime Minister fail to secure a Brexit deal.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond leaves 10 Downing Street on Wednesday morning.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond leaves 10 Downing Street on Wednesday morning.

While Conservative lawmakers debated the draft agreement, demonstrators on both sides of the debate sought to make their voices heard.

Opponents of Brexit demonstrated outside Parliament with banners proclaiming "Stop the Brexit mess!"as May addressed lawmakers during Prime Minister's Questions.

Meanwhile, Brexit supporters marched in Whitehall, calling for Britain to "take back control" through a definitive break with the EU.

9:53 a.m. ET, November 14, 2018

Pivotal UK Cabinet meeting underway

From CNN's Laura Smith-Spark

Ministers have gathered in Downing Street for a Cabinet meeting at which Prime Minister Theresa May must persuade doubters and critics to get on board with the draft Brexit deal agreed with the European Union.

The meeting was preceded by a swirl of media speculation over possible ministerial resignations if May fails to win their backing.

At the same time, ambassadors from the EU's other 27 states are meeting in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss the agreement.

Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street for Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.
Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street for Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday.

May is expected to give a statement later updating the nation on the outcome of the Cabinet meeting.

Earlier, answering questions in the House of Commons, she told lawmakers: "We will not rerun the referendum, we will not renege on the decision of the British people. We are leaving the EU on March 29, 2019.

"The British people are very keen to see an end to the free movement of people, and we will deliver."