Cabinet backs Theresa May on Brexit as she declares: 'It's my deal or no deal'
Theresa May tonight won the backing of the Cabinet for her Brexit withdrawal agreement and then declared: "It's my deal or no deal."
Amid speculation that she will face an imminent Tory leadership challenge, the Prime Minister said her senior ministers had given her plan the thumbs-up following a "long, detailed and impassioned debate" which lasted for five hours.
Full details of the agreement are not yet known, but it is understood that it will see the entire UK remain in a customs union with the EU as a way of avoiding a hard Irish border while a long-term trade deal is agreed.
However, special provisions are also thought to be included which would lead to additional customs and regulatory checks between Britain and Northern Ireland.
Mrs May said the deal, which has been roundly criticised by Tory Brexiteers and the DUP, "was the best that could be negotiated" as she threw down the gauntlet to her critics.
And she said she believed "with my head and my heart that this is a decision that is in the best interests of our entire United Kingdom".
Standing outside 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister said: "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 was clear. This deal, which delivers on the vote of the referendum, which brings 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?"
The Prime Minister said there would be "difficult days ahead", but insisted that there was no alternative to the agreement negotiated after two years of talks between UK and EU officials.
"The choice was this deal that helps us take back control and build a brighter future for our country, or going back to square one with more divisions, more uncertainty and a failure to deliver on the referendum," she said.
The Prime Minister added: "I believe that what I owe to this country is to take decision 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."
Mrs May's statement came as more Tory MPs submitted letters of no confidence in her leadership, leading to speculation that she could face a challenge as early as tomorrow.