The breakthrough came as pro-Brexit lawmakers raged against a draft agreement they said would make the UK subservient to the bloc indefinitely.

A still image from video footage shows Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, in central London, Britain, November 14, 2018.
A still image from video footage shows Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May speaking during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, in central London, Britain, November 14, 2018. (Reuters)

British Prime Minister Theresa May said that she won her Cabinet’s backing for a draft divorce deal with the European Union after a “long, detailed and impassioned” marathon meeting Wednesday.

May’s cabinet debated whether to support the deal after negotiators from Britain and the European Union broke a months-long logjam and reached agreement on divorce terms. 

May referred to the support from her cabinet as a ” collective agreement,” but didn’t say whether the deal received unanimous backing. 

She emerged from the five-hour meeting to tell reporters in Downing St. that the deal was “the best that could be negotiated.” 

She said approval by cabinet was a “decisive step which allows us to move on and finalise the deal in the days ahead.” 

“I firmly believe, with my head and my heart that this is a decision which is in the best interests of the United Kingdom,” she said.

Earlier, May told lawmakers in the House of Commons that the draft deal "takes us significantly closer to del ivering what the British people voted for in the referendum" of 2016 that opted to leave the EU.

May said her draft Brexit deal delivered on the outcome of a 2016 vote to leave the European Union, and that her government would never hold a second public vote on the subject.

She argued the deal means Britain will "take back control" of its laws and borders and "protect jobs, we protect security and we protect the integrity of the United Kingdom."

"We will not rerun the referendum, we will not renege on the decision of the British people," she said. "We will deliver Brexit and the United Kingdom is leaving the European Union on the 29th of March 2019." 

But opponents of the agreement say it threatens both May's government and the unity of the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile Britain's Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, told May that her government "has spent two years negotiating a bad deal" for Brexit "that will leave the country in an indefinite halfway house without a real say."

Corbyn hit back at May during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons and said the deal is not economically sound and does not support jobs and industry.

He said that May and the government "haven't prepared seriously for no deal."

“Now, we are making progress and close to a deal he’s complaining about that,” replied May.

“What that clearly shows is that he and the Labour party have only one intention that is to frustrate Brexit.”

Pro-Brexit MPs in Conservative Party

But Pro-Brexit lawmakers in May's Conservative Party — a group that includes some members of the Cabinet — say the agreement will leave Britain tethered to the EU after it departs and unable to forge an independent trade policy.

Eurosceptic Conservative legislator Peter Bone warned May that "if the media reports about the EU agreement are in any way accurate you will not be delivering the Brexit people voted for and today you will lose the support of many Conservative [members of Parliament] and millions of voters across the country."

May's supporters argue that the deal is the best on offer, and the alternatives are a chaotic "no-deal" Brexit that would cause huge disruption to people and businesses, or an election that could see the Conservative government replaced by the left-of-centre Labour Party.

Brexit summit

Former Foreign Secretary William Hague warned "ardent Brexiteers" that if they shoot down May's deal, it could lead to a change of government and a new referendum and "Brexit might never happen at all."

Failure to secure Cabinet backing will leave May's leadership in doubt and the Brexit process in chaos, with exit day just over four months away on March 29.

If Cabinet supports the deal, it still must be approved by leaders of the 28-nation EU. 

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said EU leaders had penciled in a November 25 Brexit summit to discuss the deal — though he cautioned nothing was guaranteed and much could still go wrong.

Then May will need to win backing from Britain's Parliament — no easy task, since pro-Brexit and pro-EU legislators alike are threatening to oppose it.

TRT World's Simon McGregor-Wood has more.

Border issue

The main obstacle to a withdrawal agreement has long been how to ensure there are no customs posts or other checks along the border between the UK's Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit. 

Britain and the EU agree that there must be no barriers that could disrupt businesses and residents on either side of the border and undermine Northern Ireland's hard-won peace process.

The proposed solution involves a common customs arrangement for the UK and the EU, to eliminate the need for border checks, with some provisions that are specific to Northern Ireland.

The solution is intended to be temporary, but pro-Brexit politicians in Britain fear it may become permanent, hampering Britain's ability to strike new trade deals around the world.

Pro-Brexit former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said the agreement would make his favoured option, a loose Canada-style trade deal with the bloc, impossible. He tweeted: "Cabinet must live up to its responsibilities & stop this deal."

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May's minority government, said it would oppose any deal that leaves Northern Ireland subject to different rules to the rest of the UK after Brexit.

DUP chief whip Jeffrey Donaldson said the proposed deal threatens "the constitutional and economic integrity of the UK."

"That is not something we can support," he told the BBC.

May also faces growing opposition from pro-EU lawmakers, who say her proposed Brexit deal is worse than the status quo and the British public should get a new vote on whether to leave or to stay.

Sophie in t Veld, a Dutch member of the European Parliament who is deputy to the legislature's Brexit chief Guy Verhofstadt, said the real problem during the negotiations "lies within the UK, within the government, within the Tory party, between the parties, because there has not been any agreement over the relationship with the EU between any of them over the last two years."

"That is the real problem, because if the UK had a single agreed line, backed by the majority of parties and the majority of MPs, then the whole situation would not be so unclear," she said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies