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Theresa May to call on ministers to back her Brexit deal at crunch Cabinet meeting

3 min read

Theresa May will urge the Cabinet to get behind her Brexit deal today in the face of furious opposition from Conservative eurosceptics and the DUP.

The Prime Minister summoned her senior ministers to Downing Street last night to view the 500-page divorce deal in a secure room - as her critics lined up to trash the agreement as a "betrayal".

All eyes will be on the reaciton of senior ministers at today's emergency Cabinet meeting at 2pm, with International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt and the Work and Pensions Secretary, Esther McVey, among those said to have doubts about the plan.

Details of the agreement began to emerge last night, with Mrs May looking to have won a significant concession from the EU over the so-called Northern Ireland backstop.

Brussels has shelved its demand for Northern Ireland alone to remain in the bloc's customs union under the arrangement that will kick in to avoid a hard border if a broader trade deal cannot be struck.

Instead, a UK-wide backstop customs tie-up will be agreed, with a review mechanism included to figure out whether the fallback option will be needed.

But in a move that has already incensed her critics, the Prime Minister has reportedly agreed that the province will stay more closely aligned to EU customs and single market rules than the rest of the UK under the plan.

The DUP, whose support Mrs May relies on for her Commons majority, quickly made clear that it intended to vote against such a deal, with the party's deputy leader Nigel Dodds describing the proposals as "a trap" aimed at keeping Northern Ireland under the control of Brussels.

He said: "If the reports are as we are hearing, then we can't possible vote for that."

In a statement issued last night, DUP leader Arelene Foster said: "I am heartened by friends of the Union on both sides of the House and across the United Kingdom who have pledged to stand with the DUP in opposing a deal which weakens the Union and hands control to Brussels rather than Parliament.

"These are momentous days and the decisions being taken will have long-lasting ramifications. The Prime Minister must win the support of the cabinet and the House of Commons. Every individual vote will count."

Conservative eurosceptics meanwhile queued up to denounce the plans, with European Research Group chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg branding it "a betrayal of the Union".

The Tory backbencher added: "If what we have heard is true, this fails to meet the Conservative Party manifesto and it fails to meet many of the commitments that the prime minister makes."

Boris Johnson, who quit the Cabinet over the summer in opposition to Mrs May's Brexit plans, said the deal was "utterly unacceptable to anyone who believes in democracy".

The ex-Foreign Fecretary fumed: "We’re going to stay in the customs union on this deal, we're going to stay effectively in large parts of the single market. That means it's vassal state stuff."

If the Cabinet backs the agreement today, it could pave the way for a 25 November emergency Brussels summit to seal the deal with the EU.

But any agreement is likely to face a stormy journey through the House of Commons, with the DUP's 10 MPs likely to team up with the 40-strong ERG to pile pressure on the PM.

Labour has also signalled it will vote against the deal, with leader Jeremy Corbyn saying the "shambolic" negotiations meant the agreement was "unlikely to be a good deal for the country".

He added: "Labour has been clear from the beginning that we need a deal to support jobs and the economy - and that guarantees standards and protections. If this deal doesn’t meet our six tests and work for the whole country, then we will vote against it."

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