Brexit draft agreement: What do they do now?

Laura Kuenssberg
Political editor
@bbclaurakon Twitter

  • Published
Downing Street doorImage source, Reuters

What do they do now? The cabinet is not going to like the draft agreement that they'll have to decide on.

Many of them probably won't like it one little bit. Number 10 says tonight that they have managed to remove the idea of a "backstop to the backstop".

But there is, in the agreement, the potential for a different regime for Northern Ireland. Sources close to the process admit privately that they haven't managed to remove the controversy.

How could they when for months, the difficulties of the conundrums have been plain for all to see.

Northern Ireland will, according to one insider familiar with the contents, under the backstop essentially be in the single market and therefore under the rules of the EU courts and the Commission.

The DUP's fury is already obvious tonight and that's even before they have seen that detail. But it's suggested that the final draft is worse for them than the speculation that had already made them fume.

Having come this far however, it doesn't seem to me that many of the cabinet are likely to walk on Wednesday over what's in the document.

It's suggested that those with bigger doubts are more likely to cause problems for the prime minister because it won't get through Parliament.

One source told me senior ministers are thinking not just about the wisdom of backing a deal they don't like because it's a sour compromise, but whether it is folly to back a deal they believe can't get through Parliament.

Slamming on the brakes now would force a crisis, but it could be less serious than the political disaster of pursuing this plan to an eventual calamitous defeat that could take them all down.

The eruption of immediate resistance from Brexiteers on Tuesday night was an immediate display of how hard it might be.

And Tories tempted by another referendum may be swayed by the enthusiasm the small number of their colleagues who are campaigning for one seem to be gaining.

So if the final vote in Parliament were tomorrow it's extremely hard to see how the government would win the day.

But so much could happen between now and then.

Government ministers and whips will do everything they can to change the dynamic.

To make the deal look like a sensible but definite triumph, to paint the alternatives as too scary to contemplate.

And frankly, when it comes to it, many MPs who might be tempted to rebel just would dearly love the whole thing to be done.

So it's just not possible yet to make the final judgement that some members of the cabinet fear tonight - that the deal as it stands just won't get the numbers in Parliament.

We cannot put ourselves yet into the Parliamentary moment that will come in a few weeks' time.

In putting the agreement in front of her cabinet, Theresa May plainly believes that forging ahead with a plan that won't please everyone is a risk worth taking.

Her colleagues will decide at 2pm on Wednesday if she will have that chance.