Theresa May to continue to push for withdrawal deal

Theresa May is set to renew her efforts to sell her draft Brexit withdrawal agreement, using a speech to say it has been "agreed in full"

Both the UK and the EU want to avoid a hard Northern Ireland border so they agreed to include in the deal a
Both the UK and the EU want to avoid a hard Northern Ireland border so they agreed to include in the deal a "backstop" or, back-up plan

Theresa May is set to renew her efforts to sell her draft Brexit withdrawal agreement, using a speech to say it has been "agreed in full." She will tell business leaders in the CBI it will deliver a fair immigration system, in which EU nationals can no longer "jump the queue".

It comes as some Tory MPs continue to press for late changes to the deal.

Ministers from the remaining 27 EU countries are meeting in Brussels ahead of the deal being finalised on Sunday.

They are working on the political declaration setting out their future relationship with the UK.

There has been widespread criticism of the draft 585-page withdrawal agreement, setting out what the UK and EU's future relationship could look like, which is set to be signed off at a summit this weekend.

Two of the prime minister's cabinet ministers resigned over the proposed deal, while others are believed to be trying to change its wording.

Speculation continues over whether the number of Tory MPs submitting letters of no-confidence in May will reach the 48 required to trigger a confidence vote on her leadership.

May will join Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in addressing the business lobby group the CBI at its annual conference in London.

She will tell them that her plan will provide a fair immigration system that will help young people in the UK get jobs and training.

She is expected to say, "It will no longer be the case that EU nationals, regardless of the skills or experience they have to offer, can jump the queue ahead of engineers from Sydney or software developers from Delhi.

"Instead of a system based on where a person is from, we will have one that is built around the talents and skills a person has to offer."

She will also reiterate that she is not willing to reopen discussions with Brussels over the withdrawal agreement, saying "the core elements of that deal are already in place".

She is due to say that she expects to hammer out a framework for a future trade relationship in Brussels this week, before signing off the deal at a summit on Sunday.

The draft document sets out the terms of the UK's departure, including details such as how much money will be paid to the EU, details of the transition period and citizens' rights.

Both the UK and the EU want to avoid a hard Northern Ireland border so they agreed to include in the deal a "backstop" or, back-up plan, in case they cannot reach a long-term trade agreement which does this.

This would mean Northern Ireland would stay more closely aligned to some EU rules, which critics say is unacceptable.

And the UK would not be able to leave the backstop without the EU's consent.

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson used his column in Monday's Daily Telegraph to renew his criticism of the draft agreement, describing it as a "585-page fig-leaf that does nothing to cover the embarrassment of our total defeat".

Calling for the scrapping of the Northern Ireland backstop, he added: "We should massively accelerate our preparations to exit on World Trade Organisation terms, with a new secretary of state responsible for all the cross-government work.

"There would, of course, be some disruption in that outcome, but by no means as much as sometimes predicted.

"And it is our failure to make proper preparations that has so gravely weakened our negotiations."

Meanwhile, former Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell has warned against trying to replace May.

He told the Times, "It will end making us look like we're hunting the prime minister down as happened with Margaret Thatcher. It will do the party untold damage in the eyes of the public."

CBI president John Allan is expected to call for MPs to back May's deal - despite it not being "perfect" - and warn of the consequences for businesses and the economy if the UK were to simply crash out of the EU.

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