Agreement is in Downing Street's grasp

Laura Kuenssberg
Political editor
@bbclaurakon Twitter

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Image source, EPA

Agreement is finally in Number 10's grasp.

The text that's taken months of officials' blood, sweat and tears has been agreed, at least at a technical level.

Now a paper's being drafted to present to the Cabinet tomorrow ready for the government's hoped-for next step - political approval from Theresa May's team, even though many of them have deep reservations.

Remember in the last 24 hours some of them have been warning privately that what's on the table is just not acceptable, and will never get through Parliament. Some even believe the prime minister ought to walk away.

But the government machine is now cranking into action. With a text ready, their long-planned rollout can begin.

If the Cabinet agrees the withdrawal agreement that might run to 500 pages, it will be published, in the next few days, along with what's described as the 'outline political declaration' - the skeleton of what our relationship will be like with the rest of the continent for years to come.

Expect to see the Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, pop up in Brussels to smile for the cameras alongside Michel Barnier.

Then in a couple of weeks' time EU leaders will gather in Brussels, in theory, to give their approval. Then the action moves to Parliament where as things stand, no one knows quite what will happen.

Of course that's only if Theresa May's plan comes off.

Number 10's hope is that Cabinet will swallow their anxieties and come on board - contemplating the alternative of no deal might seem too politically awful to risk.

But, as one senior source predicts, in the withdrawal agreement there will be "plenty of scope for mischief and confusion".

The mechanism over the so-called "backstop" (for more on that read here) is bound to be pored over and most likely complained about.

There are all sorts of other issues that might be buried in the small print that could explode.

It is possible, though it seems unlikely at this stage, that some ministers may walk over the terms that have been agreed.

And it is very unlikely, but can't be completely ruled out, that the Cabinet might refuse to sign up. But for Theresa May the hope and the expectation for the next 24 hours is that the sighs of relief will be louder than the complaints.

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