The European Affairs Ministers of the 27 countries of the European Union (EU) agreed on Monday to the draft deal between Brussels and London on Brexit. “The first difficult step has been taken. We managed to preserve unity,” said Gernot Blümel, Austrian Foreign Minister, after a meeting in Brussels. “I am satisfied that the ministers are supporting the whole package today,“ added the EU’s chief negotiator for Brexit, Michel Barnier.
However, the discussions are not yet finished: the two parties must now agree on the nature of the relationship they will have after Brexit including how long the transition period should be between the date the UK leaves the union and when a new trade deal should be in place.
After several months of intense negotiations, the agreement between London and Brussels was validated on Wednesday night by the British government. But the UK has since plunged into a deep political crisis. Five government members, including the Brexit Minister and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, resigned on Thursday to protest the deal.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has since become increasingly isolated in the run up to the European summit set for November 25, at which the draft agreement is supposed to be signed-off on.
The most controversial issue is the backstop, a last resort solution for keeping the whole of the UK in a customs union with the EU if no agreement on the future relationship between Brussels and London is reached after a transition period of 21 months after Brexit. It also provides for further regulatory alignment with Northern Ireland.
May’s premiership is being threatened by a vote of no confidence, demanded by Brexiters from her own party. The motion to put the vote on May’s leadership before the House of Commons first requires the support of 48 MPs from her own party.