Theresa May has secured a draft Brexit agreement with Brussels after months of wrangling.
The prime minister cleared the first hurdle when the cabinet backed her Brexit blueprint after a fiery five-hour meeting on Wednesday.
However Ms May’s future was thrown into doubt by the resignations of two cabinet ministers and several ministers, amid a furious backlash from Brexiteer Tories and some Remainers.
1 What is the Brexit deal?
Senior officials in Brussels and London have come up with a 585-page draft agreement, which will form the legal basis for Brexit.
Known as the withdrawal agreement, the long-awaited document is the result of 18 months of intense talks to sort out key issues around the UK’s exit from the European Union.
It covers the main parts of the UK-EU relationship, from citizens’ rights and the divorce bill, to the Irish border.
Both sides have been forced to make concessions to get to this point and talks have ground to a halt many times, particularly over the threat of a frontier in Northern Ireland, which has prompted fears of a return to violence at the border.
2 Will Brexit deal be approved by MPs?
The prime minister secured the backing of the cabinet for the deal, so she now needs to get it past the EU and MPs – under so-called meaningful vote in the Commons in December.
It is looking increasingly unlikely that Ms May can win parliamentary backing for her Brexit blueprint.
The magic number May needs is 320 – more than half of the remaining 639 MPs, once the abstentionist Sinn Fein politicians and the Speaker and his deputies are discounted
After losing her parliamentary majority in the snap general election, the Tories hold 315 seats, Labour has 257 and the SNP are on 35.
May then entered into a “confidence and supply” deal with the Democratic Unionist Party, which has 10 MPs, giving her a working majority of 13.
Simple, right? Wrong.
The DUP are in open revolt and some 80 hardline Tory Brexiteers could be ready to vote against it. Conservative remain backers – around 8 MPs – have also spoken out against the deal.
The PM could be forced to find up to 100 MPs from elsewhere, though that number may be whittled down by the whips.
But the SNP and the Liberal Democrats are pro-Europe, and Labour is due to vote against it, so she may struggle to make up the numbers.
3 What does the Brexit deal mean for UK citizens living in Europe?
Protecting citizens rights has been a key issue as more than 3 million EU citizens live in the UK and 1 million UK nationals reside in European countries.
The agreement safeguards the existing rights of UK citizens who were living in the EU up to the end of the transition period and vice versa. Family members will be able to join them, as under current rules. Children born after Brexit will also be covered.
However it does not clear up questions over “onward movement” for Britons who might want to move to another EU country from the one they are living in after Brexit.
It also doesn’t cover what happens to people who want to work in different countries, which is one of the main concerns for British nationals living in the EU.
4 What does the Brexit deal mean for the Irish border?
The Irish border has been the most difficult issue to square for negotiators.
Ms May has promised to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic amid fears it could herald a return to violence and threaten the peace process.
The agreement includes a “backstop”, which would keep the whole of the UK within a customs union with the EU to prevent the need for a endless checks at the border.
The backstop is a type of safety net. It comes into force after the end of the transition period and will stay in place until Brussels and London come up with a better plan.
Northern Ireland would also stay aligned to parts of the EU’s single market, so goods coming in would need to be checked to see if they meet EU rules. Goods going in the other direction would not have the same checks.
None of this is popular with Brexiteers or the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), as they fear it keeps the UK too closely tied to Brussels.
(15. 11. 2018 via independent.co.uk)