Prime Minister Theresa May secured the backing of her senior ministers for a draft European Union divorce deal on Wednesday, freeing her to tackle the perilous struggle of getting Parliament to approve it.
More than two years after the United Kingdom voted in a referendum to leave the EU, May told reporters outside her No. 10 Downing St. residence that she had won over her divided Cabinet, which includes some senior Brexiteers.
“The collective decision of Cabinet was that the government should agree on the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration,” she said, after a five-hour meeting.
Speaking over protesters shouting anti-Brexit slogans from the end of Downing Street, she said the deal, 585 pages long, was the best that could be negotiated.
“When you strip away the detail, the choice before us was clear: This deal — which delivers on the vote of the referendum, which brings back control of our money laws and borders, ends free movement, protects jobs security and our union — or leave with no deal, or no Brexit at all,” she said.
May hoped the deal would satisfy both Brexit voters and EU supporters by ensuring close ties with the bloc after Britain leaves on March 29.
Still, her Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, quit the government Thursday in a huge blow to the prime minister, saying he “must resign” over the proposed withdrawal agreement.
The weakest British leader in a generation now faces the ordeal of trying to push her deal through Parliament, where opponents have lined up to castigate the agreement, even before reading it. Brexit will pitch the world’s fifth-largest economy into the unknown. Many fear it will divide the West as it grapples with both the unconventional U.S. presidency of Donald Trump and growing assertiveness from Russia and China.
May gave no date for a vote in Parliament but she will need the votes of about 320 of the 650 lawmakers. It is unclear whether she has the numbers.