Theresa May defends Brexit deal ahead of crucial week of talks | News | DW | 19.11.2018
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Theresa May defends Brexit deal ahead of crucial week of talks

British Prime Minister Theresa May stands behind a draft Brexit deal reached last week with the EU. EU officials view the deal as the only viable option, but rebels in May's Conservative party may yet scupper the deal.

British Prime Minister Theresa May stood behind her Brexit draft deal on Monday during a speech to British business leaders, defying rebels within the Conservative party as she prepares for a tough week of talks with European officials.

Speaking at the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the UK's main business association, May said she expects to finalize the final details and reach an agreement on the divorce deal with the EU this week.

"I expect us to hammer out the full and final details of the framework that will underpin our future relationship and I am confident that we can strike a deal at the council that I can take back to the House of Commons," May will say according to excerpts of the speech released by Downing Street.

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She also reiterated support for the agreement she reached with the EU, saying it will be able to deliver a good outcome for the British people – which May says include control over the country's borders, money and laws.

EU: Deal 'fair and balanced'

The European Union's Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday that the deal is "fair and balanced" and that EU member states generally approve of the deal.

"I am pleased that ministers today support the overall package," Barnier said at a press conference after a briefing with 27 national EU ministers. "We are in fact at a decisive moment in this process, no one should lose sight of the progress that has been achieved in Brussels and in London." 

In her speech to the CBI, May will specifically address migration, a topic felt strongly by businesses who fear a lack of workers and a skills gap after Brexit.

The prime minister will promise that "more streamlined application processes" will be introduced to "attract the brightest and best from around the world."

But with a substantial difference. "Once we have left the EU, we will be fully in control of who comes here," according to Downing Street.

A turbulent few days for May

May's speech to the CBI comes after a turbulent week in British politics, after her draft deal was strongly criticized by dissenters within her own party and triggered the resignation of several Ministers.

Pro-Brexit conservatives who believe May's draft deal is not going to benefit the UKare attempting to hold a vote of no confidence over the Prime Minister's leadership role.

For such a vote to take place, 48 Conservative lawmakers must submit a letter requesting it.

The Sun newspaper wrote the rebels were six letters short, but one of those calling for May's resignation told the paper Monday might bring some new developments.

An important week of talks ahead

A feverish week of talks awaits May in Brussels, ahead of a special European Council summit planned for Sunday, November 25.

A first agreement on the draft Brexit deal was reached last week by May and the EU after months of talks.

The deal lays out the terms of Britain's departure from the EU, scheduled for March 29, 2019, but both sides still have to ratify the agreement.

The UK Prime Minister will work with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to try to finalize the details.

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Ahead of Sunday's summit, European Affairs ministers from the EU's member states met on Monday to discuss the divorce papers, with several officials saying the agreed text was not up for negotiations.

Heiko Maas, Germany's foreign minister, tweeted on Monday that the draft deal currently on the table is "a good compromise" to which "both sides have contributed."

"I hope that now everyone will act responsibly. The consequences of an unregulated Brexit are incalculable. Nobody can have an interest in that," Maas wrote.

Germany's Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told ZDF television that the EU has already accommodated the UK on many issues, and that the agreed-upon withdrawal agreement is fair to both sides.

"It won't be easier if people try now to renegotiate a lot of things – we should stand by what was achieved laboriously in more than a year," Altmaier said.

gs/ng (AP, Reuters, dpa, AFP)


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