Theresa May has presented her cabinet with a withdrawal agreement for Brexit, and 26 pages outlining – in the broadest terms – a future relationship between the UK and EU. But much still needs to be done in the coming weeks.
The prime minister travels to Brussels for a final round of talks on Saturday with the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker. Areas that still need to be pinned down include Spanish worries over the future of Gibraltar.
On Sunday May hopes the other 27 EU leaders will formally sign off both agreements at a special summit.
Many MPs believe May will start the tortuous process of trying to get the deal through parliament on 10 December. However, the Commons business for the week before has not yet been announced, so it could theoretically come then.
Whenever it arrives the process is expected to see a fierce debate and, if the tallies of Conservative MPs who have promised publicly to oppose the deal are to be believed, end in defeat for May.
Much remains in doubt, not least even the format for the Commons process. While the consensus is that the motion must be amendable by MPs, it is believed ministers want amendments to only be tabled if the main motion is defeated – the usual format is for amendments to be voted on ahead of a final decision. The Speaker, John Bercow, has indicated he believes the first option would be preferable.
If the plan is defeated in the Commons then the waters are more uncharted still. Officially, this would leave a no-deal departure as the default option, but many MPs have vowed to stop this as well. If both are blocked then options to break the deadlock would include a general election – Labour’s preferred choice – or perhaps, if it was logistically possible, a second referendum. Both face numerous obstacles, however.
13 and 14 December
The other immediate diary date is the long-scheduled EU summit on these days. Some around May might harbour plans of taking the deal back to Brussels yet again and extracting more concessions under the threat of no deal. But the EU has been clear that the agreement as it stands is the best that will be offered.