Britain And EU Have Drafted A 'Comprehensive' Post-Brexit Agreement The deal is being criticized by both Britain's Labour Party and by some in Prime Minister Theresa May's own Conservative Party for threatening to trap the U.K. in the EU's customs rules.
NPR logo Britain And EU Have Drafted A 'Comprehensive' Post-Brexit Agreement

Britain And EU Have Drafted A 'Comprehensive' Post-Brexit Agreement

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street, London on Thursday. May says the Brexit deal's approval "is within our grasp," and she is determined to deliver it. Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP hide caption

toggle caption
Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May makes a statement outside 10 Downing Street, London on Thursday. May says the Brexit deal's approval "is within our grasp," and she is determined to deliver it.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

On Thursday officials from the United Kingdom and the European Union approved a draft agreement on their future relationship for when the U.K. leaves at the end of March 2019. The deal, which is not legally binding, calls for an "ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership," including a trading relationship on goods that is "as close as possible."

Speaking in Britain's House of Commons, Prime Minister Theresa May insisted her government negotiated a comprehensive deal that would allow Britain to control migration — an issue that helped drive the Brexit vote in 2016 — and eventually take back the power from Brussels to make its own laws.

"British people want Brexit to be settled," she said. "They want a good deal that sets us on a course for a brighter future. In these crucial seventy-two hours ahead, I will do everything in my power to deliver it for the British people."

But for the second time in about a week, politicians of all stripes in the House roundly criticized the Prime Minister's plans. Both Brexiteers in May's own Conservative Party and members of the opposition Labour Party said the deal could lock the United Kingdom into EU customs regulations for years to come, and prevent Britain from striking new trade deals with other countries.

The tentative withdrawal agreement calls for the United Kingdom to continue to follow EU customs arrangements if the two sides can't agree on a new trade deal. The purpose is to avoid building new customs posts between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the EU.

Jeremy Corbyn, head of the Labour Party, said May's agreement puts Britain in a weak position.

"It represents the worst of all worlds," said Corbyn as he questioned the prime minister in the House of Commons. "No say over the rules that will continue to apply and no certainty of the future. This is the blind-fold Brexit we all feared, a leap in the dark."

May tried to sell her deal to the House, but even some members of her own party shouted her down. The EU takes up the deal this Sunday in Brussels, but the British prime minister's biggest challenge will happen next month when she tries to get her new plan through her own parliament.

Correction Nov. 23, 2018

A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the U.K. will leave the European Union at the end of March 2020. The correct year is 2019.