Theresa May insists 'draft text is a good deal for our country and partners in the EU' as UK agrees deal in principle

The Prime Minister has defended the political declaration setting out the post-Brexit relationship between the UK and EU.

Theresa May told the House of Commons on Thursday afternoon: “The draft text we have agreed is a good deal for our country and partners in the EU.”

“It honours the vote of the British people by taking back control of borders, laws and money... it ends free movement once and for all and instead there will be a skills-based immigration system.”

“We will make our own laws in our own parliament here in Westminster... an end to sending vast sums of money to the EU”, she continued.

“The EU said the choice was binary - Norway or Canada. The political declaration recognises there is a spectrum.”

The draft declaration was agreed in principle on Thursday morning, after negotiators worked through the night on new directions issued by Mrs May and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker when they met in the Belgian capital on Wednesday evening.

Among the 26-page document was a promise that “technologies” and “alternative arrangements” could help avoid the Northern Irish backstop; an independent trade policy for the UK; and a new fisheries policy could continue to give EU boats access to our waters.

The draft agreement also outlined how the European Court of Justice will keep a role in resolving disputes.

Mrs May said it was now up to the 27 EU member states to examine the agreement before the EU Council meeting on Sunday.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mrs May's deal on the future relationship with the EU represents the “worst of all worlds”.

Mr Corbyn, speaking in the Commons, told the prime minister, her party had negotiated “26 pages of waffle” that could have been written two years ago.

He said: “19 extra pages but nothing has changed. The only certainty contained within these pages is that the transition period will have to be extended or we will end up with a backstop and no exit.

”It represents the worst of all worlds, no say over the rules that will continue to apply and no certainty to the future."

A host of leading Conservative MPs such as Iain Duncan Smith, Dominic Raab, Justine Greening and Boris Johnson also took aim at the Prime Minister's draft deal.

  • ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston on how likely it is Theresa May's deal will get through Parliament

In her statement, Mrs May said she had spoken to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and said she was "confident" they would be able to "agree a deal that delivers for the whole UK family, including Gibraltar."

Mrs May had faced a strong push back from Spain over the status of Gibraltar in the “divorce deal”.

The political declaration on the future relationship between the UK and EU was been agreed in principle after a "good discussion" in Brussels.

Donald Tusk has passed the agreement on to the EU 27. Credit: AP

Donald Tusk, the council's president, tweeted that a draft copy of the declaration had been sent to the remaining 27 EU member states.

He said that it has been "agreed at negotiators' level and agreed in principle at political level".

The announcement clears the way for a special Brexit summit to go ahead in Brussels on Sunday, when leaders of the 27 remaining EU states are expected to give their stamp of approval to the declaration alongside the 585-page withdrawal agreement setting out the terms of the UK's departure.

Theresa May met with European Commission president Jean-Claude Junker on Wednesday in an attempt to finalise details of the political declaration.

Downing Street has repeatedly made clear that agreement is needed on the future framework - setting out aspirations in areas like trade and security co-operation and believed to run to a few dozen pages - in order to press ahead with the legally-binding withdrawal agreement.

While Mrs May's Brexit deal has cleared its first hurdle, it still faces a number of obstacles and a no-deal scenario remains a possibility.

The withdrawal agreement faces major opposition in Parliament, with Labour, DUP, 50 Tory Brexiteers and several Conservative remainers vowing to vote against it.

If the deal does get rejected, it is believed MPs will tweak it slightly before putting it back to the vote.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd is in agreement with the Labour party and others that there is no majority in in Parliament for a no-deal Brexit. But for that to be avoided, Parliament will need to come together to form another deal.

As the countdown to Sunday's scheduled summit intensified, Chancellor Philip Hammond said that if the Brexit deal is rejected by Parliament it would unleash "political chaos" and could lead to EU withdrawal not happening.

He told ITV’s Peston show: “It’s clear that if the deal is not approved by Parliament we will have a politically chaotic situation.“And, we don’t know what the outcome of that will be.

The draft political declaration. Credit:

“And for those who are passionately committed to ensuring that we leave the EU on the 29th of March, 2019, one of the things that they are going to have to bear in mind is the possibility that, in that chaos that would ensue, there may be no Brexit.”

He added: “It could be no deal, but it could be no Brexit, we just don’t know.

“When we look at the economy, and the operation of the economy, getting a smooth exit from the European Union, doing this in an orderly fashion, is worth tens of billions of pounds to our economy.”