May and Juncker move forward on final draft of Brexit deal

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May leave after a press briefing. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Theresa May leave after a press briefing. (Photo by JOHN THYS / AFP)
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Theresa May will return to Brussels on Saturday to try and finalise the outline of the UK’s post-Brexit relationship with the EU, following talks with the Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

The Prime Minister and Mr Juncker made progress on the future relationship framework, but more work is needed, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel warning she will not take part in a summit to sign off the UK’s Brexit deal on Sunday unless a draft is ready.

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Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has continued to come under pressure from all sides over the embattled draft divorce deal between the UK and European Union.

Before leaving for Brussels, Mrs May was told by backbench Conservatives they were “deeply unhappy” with the withdrawal agreement.

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At PMQs, the MP Andrew Rosindell claimed it “does not represent the Brexit for which they voted” and urged her to commit to “completely cutting away the tentacles” of the EU.

And in a sign of the widening rift between the Conservatives and the DUP, which agreed to provide the Government with a Commons majority in exchange for £1 billion of public money, the Prime Minister was accused of “deleting” assurances over the Irish border from the draft text.

In the past week, the DUP has abstained on a series of votes on the Finance Bill that enacts the budget, breaching the confidence and supply agreement with the Tories and putting crucial Government business at risk of defeat.

DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds challenged the Prime Minister, accusing her of having “deleted all reference” to a commitment in December that Northern Ireland “would have the final say on whether or not it diverged from the UK single market and was subjected to single market European rules with no say”.

Mr Dodds asked: “Did she push the delete button?”

At PMQs Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told the Prime Minister the agreement was “dead”.

“If the Government can’t negotiate an alternative then it should make way for those who can and will,” he said.

The Prime Minister hit back, mocking Mr Corbyn over not having read the 585-page draft withdrawal agreement and refusing to say how he would vote in a second EU referendum.

“Never mind a second referendum, he hasn’t got a first clue,” she said.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford told the Prime Minister to “start to listen, go back to Brussels [and] let us stay in the single market and the customs union”.

He added the government was in a “panic” over the final vote on the Brexit deal.