Theresa May has declared that final agreement on Brexit is “within our grasp” following a breakthrough agreement on future relations between the UK and EU.
Speaking outside 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister said a political declaration on post-Brexit relations agreed with Brussels is “the right plan for the UK” which will set the country on course for a brighter future.
The draft declaration was agreed in principle on Thursday morning, after negotiators worked through the night on new directions issued by Ms May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker when they met in the Belgian capital on Wednesday evening.
The breakthrough cleared the way for a special summit in Brussels on Sunday, at which leaders of the remaining 27 EU states are expected to give their stamp of approval to both the future framework and a separate withdrawal agreement setting out the terms of the UK’s departure.
Ms May briefed members of her cabinet on the new text in a conference call and was addressing MPs in a statement to the House of Commons later in the day.
“This is the right deal for the UK. It delivers on the vote of the referendum, it brings back control of our borders, our money and our laws and it does so while protecting jobs, protecting our security and protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom,” she said on Thursday.
Confirming that she would return to Brussels on Saturday for further talks with Mr Juncker ahead of the summit, she added: “The British people want this to be settled, they want a good deal that sets us on course for a brighter future.
“That deal is within our grasp and I am determined to deliver on it.”
Agreement on the text was announced by European Council president Donald Tusk, who said in a tweet: “I have just sent to EU27 a draft Political Declaration on the Future Relationship between EU and UK.
“The Commission President has informed me that it has been agreed at negotiators’ level and agreed in principle at political level, subject to the endorsement of the leaders.”
Downing Street has always stressed that the 585-page legally binding withdrawal agreement setting out the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU – including a “divorce bill” estimated at STG39 billion ($69 billion) – can only be finalised alongside the shorter declaration setting out the two sides’ aspirations for their future relations.
Ms May will hope that the prospect of an ambitious free trade deal set out in the 26-page declaration will win over some of the Conservative MPs who have voiced deep misgivings about her plans.
The new text calls for an “ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership” covering trade, law enforcement, foreign policy, security and defence, which could take the form of a Ukraine-style Association Agreement.
It confirms that the future relationship must respect the sovereignty of the UK and its right to develop an independent trade policy and end the free movement of EU nationals.
And it leaves open the possibility of using technological solutions to keep the Irish border open after Brexit.