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Brexit Draft Withdrawal Proposal Spells Trouble For Prime Minister May

On 14 November 2018 the United Kingdom released a draft withdrawal agreement to the European Union for consideration. The draft covers how the UK wishes to leave the EU, but does not cover anything about a permanent future relationship between the two.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 with, according to the draft, a 21 month period after during which the UK will continue to follow all EU rules in order for a smooth transition for governments and business. During this transition period, the UK will remain under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, as well as be bound by any decisions adopted by the EU during this transition period. The draft agreement also states that the transition period for a long term trade agreement, if needed, can be extended at the cost of the UK. It is not stated how long this transition period can be extended to, although the European Commission has proposed 31 December 2022 as the ultimate end date for any extension.

In terms of the problem surrounding trade with Northern Ireland and the UK, the draft agreement proposes a backstop - a temporary “single customs territory” union encompassing Northern Ireland and the UK - to be implemented in the case of a no deal situation on the trade agreements. In this case, Northern Ireland would have a deeper customs relationship than the UK with the EU.

The draft also outlines a proposal for a new skills-based migration system. Prime Minister Theresa May backed this proposal by saying it will prevent EU migrants from “jumping the queue” as they will no longer be prioritized before qualified workers coming from non-EU countries.

Overall the draft withdrawal agreement has been met with widespread criticism. In fact, two of the prime minister’s cabinet ministers, Esther McVey and Dominic Raab, resigned over the proposed draft. A group of Tory MPs has published a rebuttal of the draft agreement as a poll of 505 Tory councillors were found to be against the deal. Additionally, Labour leader Mr Corbyn has stated that his party, with 257 MPs, and Scottish First Minister Nicola Strugeon’s MPs will not support the deal either.

Due to the widespread hostility and criticism against the draft withdrawal agreement, PM May faces a potential vote of no confidence from the Tory MPs. It is said that leading backbench Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has submitted a letter of no confidence to the chairman, Sir Graham Brandy, of the Tories’ backbench 1922 Committee. If Sir Graham receives 48 letters of no confidence, a vote will be triggered for PM May’s leadership.

What next?

European Council President Donald Tusk has announced an emergency meeting of EU leaders in Brussels on the 25 November, during which time the draft withdrawal agreement and political declaration on future relations will be finalized. However, if PM May does face a vote of no confidence, it is unclear how negotiations will proceed.



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