Following the release of the draft EU Withdrawal Agreement on Wednesday (14 November), secured by Prime Minister Theresa May following months of arduous negotiations with the EU, criticism and condemnation has come from all sides of the political spectrum.
The government has been rocked by the resignations of cabinet ministers, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey, saying they could not support the deal following a tense five-hour cabinet meeting on Wednesday night in which May called for her cabinet to back the deal for the national interest.
May delivered a statement to the House of Commons on the agreed deal yesterday (15 November) and faced criticism from all sides, both from Brexiters and Remain-supporting MPs, with the parliamentary arithmetic making it look increasingly difficult for May to force her deal through Parliament.
The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) upon whose support May’s government has had to rely due to a lack of a working majority in the House of Commons – and hardline Brexit-supporting MPs in the European Research Group, led by Jacob Rees Mogg, were vociferous in their criticism of the Northern Irish backstop, which would keep the entire UK in the customs union beyond the negotiated transition period in order to avoid a hard border in Ireland. The DUP has indicated that it will not vote for the agreement when it comes before the House of Commons, while calls grow among hardline Brexiters for a vote of no confidence in May.
‘This isn’t a parlour game for the Westminster class. MPs are playing with people’s real lives’
Meanwhile, significant numbers of MPs from opposition parties have called for the Prime Minister to hold a People’s Vote, with the option of remaining in the EU on the ballot, in order to avoid the prospect of a no deal Brexit.
Responding to the May's statement on the Brexit deal, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: "The Prime Minister knows the maths – her deal is never going to get through the Commons, and no deal would be an unmitigated disaster.
"We now risk chaos – job losses, businesses going under, crisis for our NHS, families divided and environmental rules torn up. That was never the will of the people.
"This isn’t a parlour game for the Westminster class. MPs are playing with people’s real lives.
“At this moment of conscience we must put aside party politics. Parliament must give control back to the public and deliver a People’s Vote."
The Green Party has been vocal in its support for a People’s Vote on Brexit, with several high-profile figures in the party echoing the calls made by Lucas in Parliament on Twitter.
There the PM goes again “we can risk no Brexit at all”. The PM sees remaining as a possibility. Jeremy Corbyn are you listening? We need a #PeoplesVote with an option to Remain.— Jonathan Bartley (@jon_bartley) 15 November 2018
#WithdrawalAgreement swaps cake for a dog’s breakfast.— Molly Scott Cato MEP (@MollyMEP) 15 November 2018
People didn't vote for a dodgy deal. It’s time for the real deal – a vote on the reality of Brexit.
It’s time for a #PeoplesVote
My full statement:https://t.co/1pE3dYMFrh
MPs from Labour, the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats, as well the Conservative Party, also called for a second vote to allow the British public to cast their judgement on the deal.
There has been a lack of clarity from the Labour Party leadership regarding a People’s Vote on Brexit. A Labour conference motion, backed unanimously by members, stated that if the party cannot obtain a general election, then it would support all options on the table, including a public vote. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn then told the German newspaper Der Spiegel last week that “we can’t stop Brexit”. In an email to Labour members sent last night, however, Corbyn sought to reiterate the stance decided at his party’s conference.
Momentum behind a People’s Vote has been building in recent months, with around 700,000 people taking part in a march on 20 October in London to demand that the decision on Brexit be given back to the people. A snap poll commissioned by YouGov and published in the Evening Standard last night found that 59 per cent of Britons backed holding a new referendum – discounting ‘don’t knows’ – while 54 per cent would now vote to Remain, similar to the results of a Channel 4 poll earlier this month.
Much remains up in the air about how things will pan out. MPs will have the chance to vote on the agreed deal soon, most likely at the start of December. It is highly likely at this point that the deal will not pass. In that case, the default path would then be a no deal Brexit, as the legislation has already been passed meaning that the UK will leave the EU on 29 March 2019.
In order to avoid this, the government would have to either go back to the EU to renegotiate the deal (which the EU has indicated it is not willing to do), call a general election to try and gain a majority to pass the deal, or call a People’s Vote to let the British public decide the next course of action.