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The big sell begins in Europe as well

The European Parliament also needs to pass May's deal. Credit: PA

It’s not just Theresa May who needs to get the Brexit withdrawal deal through Parliament.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, joint author of the 585-page package of legalese, protocols and assurances, will travel to Strasbourg today where the European Parliament will need to pass the deal before it can clear all its hurdles.

Mr Barnier is due to meet the grandly-titled European Parliament Conference of Presidents this morning. These are the leaders of political groupings who can lead MEPS on delivering the votes here.

They get their own briefing on the contents and will be persuaded to back the deal. It shouldn’t be a difficult job for Michel Barnier. After all, the clear view emerging here is that the EU has been the winner.

Why? Essentially because so many strings are attached; because key sections ensure the EU stays in control. For example, the independent arbitration panel, which will oversee the implementation and running of the protocol on Northern Ireland, gives the EU an effective veto.

It will also be up to this bi-lateral body to decide in July 2020 if the transition period needs to be extended.

The EU’s court of justice will be the ultimate legal authority in case of disputes during the transition period.

A level playing field for EU standards and laws is insisted on. The dreaded ‘backstop’ still has that open-ended wording insisted on by the Irish government: it will apply “unless and until” a free trade deal which avoids a hard border in Ireland can replace it.

Getting a backstop time limit was a demand from Brexit fans. The list goes on. The pages are packed with clauses that give the EU a tight grip on the UK’s exit.

A temporary UK wide customs union will be in place until a formal trade deal is signed, a single customs territory that stays in place until the EU, and the UK, jointly agree it can end.

That also infuriates so many Leave supporters, because it raises the possibility that the temporary arrangement may never end. It relies on trust and best intentions.

Tory Daniel Hannan was scornful of May's deal. Credit: PA

No wonder they’re laughing at us, just about sums up the view being expressed by British eurosceptic MEPs.

Speaking to Daniel Hannan, a Conservative, he was scornful of the deal and said the Europeans had trapped the UK. He joins his fellow Brexiteers in Westminster in thinking that the deal will not pass through the British Parliament and, if that happens, in his view, the UK government should simply walk away.

Meanwhile, Elmar Brok, a veteran German MEP and stalwart member of the Christian Democrat party and a close ally of Angela Merkel, told me that this deal was the only deal on offer.

Europe has run out of patience he told me. Brok, who has a position on the Brexit Steering Group which has been briefed weekly by Barnier, was critical of the divisions within the Conservative government, saying the friction and in-fighting had made negotiations more difficult.

There has always been the argument that the EU would not want the UK to leave with a skip in its step. Michel Barnier’s sales pitch will be based on the view that the EU believes it’s got a good deal, and that, in itself, is what infuriates so many of the Prime Minister’s critics.