Theresa May is having a tough week after her plan to agree ‘sufficient progress’ with Jean Claude-Juncker in time for the crucial EU council meeting was brought to a stop by the DUP. The DUP are now dragging their feet over whether or not they can back or amend the government’s ‘solution’ to the Irish border – a promise of ‘regulatory alignment’ in relation to areas covered by the Good Friday agreement (and perhaps beyond). Meanwhile, the eurosceptic wing os the party is seeing red over any agreement involving UK-wide regulatory alignment on the basis that it could hinder their vision of a clean Brexit which would allow the country to strike competitive free trade deals with other countries.
Now to make things a bit more complicated – and just in time for PMQs – the draft agreement has leaked. Politico has been given a readout of the draft agreement May had hoped to sign off with Juncker on Monday. The good news is that there are no shock concessions in the 15-page document. However, there is still plenty for MPs to pick over and question – from details on the vetoed Irish border solution, an agreement for Britain to pay its full share of the costs of all EU projects signed off for almost two years after Britain leaves the EU. On EU citizens’ rights, there is a pledge to have ‘due regard’ to ECJ case law.
The problem for the government – and it’s one of many following Monday’s bungling – is that Theresa May original plan was to agree sufficient progress and then present the draft agreement in Parliament with a lengthly statement. This would have allowed the government machine to set a narrative on what they had achieved. As things currently stand, nothing has been achieved yet – and MPs can read the document anyway allowing them to see the potential concessions and decide what is to big.
It follows that for the first time since the Brexit vote, the Eurosceptic wing of the party is becoming vocal in its opposition to the government’s Brexit plans. MPs like Iain Duncan Smit and Jacob Rees-Mogg are speaking out – and their voices will only get louder as more difficult decisions arise in the coming months.