Brexit deal could break up the UK: PM faces furious backlash over Brussels agreement

Sources close to Brexiteer ministers played down the prospect of walkouts

Theresa May’s Brexit deal could lead to the break-up of the UK, the Democratic Unionist Party has warned.

The party’s chief whip, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, warned the deal would in the ‘long-term’ leave Northern Ireland closely aligned with the EU and could increase support for Scottish independence, saying ‘this is not the right Brexit’. He also said that his party ‘doesn’t fear a general election’.

His comments came amid a Brexiteer backlash that threatens to destabilize May.

A draft divorce deal was reached by officials from the EU and UK on Tuesday evening, following months of talks between the two sides.

However, prominent Brexiteers have urged the Cabinet to reject the proposals and resign from their position in protest – which could lead to a vote of no confidence in the PM.

Ministers have been briefed one by one on the contents of the draft divorce deal and further individual briefings are expected this morning ahead of the special meeting of the full Cabinet at 2pm.

Ex-Tory leader and Brexit supporter Iain Duncan Smith said Mrs May’s days could be numbered if the Cabinet agrees to the draft text.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson urged his ex-Cabinet colleagues to ‘chuck it out’, while Jacob Rees-Mogg said that the deal ‘is a failure of the Government’s negotiating position’.

The special meeting on Wednesday could potentially be a flashpoint for tensions between Brexiteers and Remainers around the Cabinet table, with speculation that Leave-supporting ministers including Penny Mordaunt, Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom could be prepared to quit if a deal ties the UK too closely to Brussels.

But sources close to Brexiteer ministers played down the prospect of walkouts.

Chief Whip Julian Smith told reporters: ‘I am confident that we will get this through Parliament and that we can deliver on what the Prime Minister committed to on delivering Brexit.’

What is in the deal?

The Agreement covers arrangements for disentangling the UK from the EU after more than 40 years of membership.

Key issues are the future rights of British expats living on the continent and Europeans in the UK; the settlement of the UK’s financial liabilities, estimated at up to £39 billion; and the status of the border on the island of Ireland.

RTÉ said that the text provides for just one backstop to prevent a hard border, and will come in the form of a temporary UK-wide customs arrangement that will include specific provisions for Northern Ireland.

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