EU, UK agree draft on 'ambitious' post-Brexit ties

Brexit : Theresa May under pressure from eurosceptics

The new Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd said she expects Theresa May's Brexit deal to get through parliament and explicitly said MPs would not allow a no-deal Brexit to happen.

EU Council President Donald Tusk said the 26-page declaration covering trade, security, the environment and other issues was agreed "in principle" and would be sent to the other 27 member states for approval.

The pound leapt by about one percent against the dollar and also firmed against the euro on news of the declaration, struck after through-the-night talks between British and European Union negotiators.

European Union leaders have largely welcome the deal, but Spain has expressed concerns, saying the wording leaves unclear how Gibraltar, the British territory at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula, would be dealt with.

Late on Thursday night, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wrote on Twitter: "After my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain far away".

"We have to say honestly that, in the services sector, we don't have a great deal of experience with worldwide free trade agreements", she said.

Focusing his criticism on the backstop, aimed at avoiding a hard Irish border, the DUP peer said: "The Government claim of a United Kingdom customs solution is simply untrue".

"We have a promise, a commitment, from the British government saying they are ready to. guarantee that they will go along with the clarification we have requested", he said.

This reception follows a speech in Belfast on Monday by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley, in which she told business leaders that the draft Withdrawal Agreement delivers for the people and businesses of Northern Ireland.

She concluded: "The British people want Brexit to be settled".

She will return on Saturday, on the eve of a special summit where all 28 European Union leaders are expected to sign off on the overall Brexit package.

A European diplomat told AFP that Gibraltar had been the sole remaining bone of contention in the meeting of so-called "diplomatic sherpas" - who guide their national leaders to the summit.

At the moment, it looks precarious for the prime minister given the number of lawmakers who have expressed discontent with the proposals, notably the 585-page legal treaty that deals with the terms of Britain's departure, including what the country owes the EU.

"The declaration establishes the parameters of an ambitious, broad, deep and flexible partnership across trade and economic cooperation" and other areas, according to a copy of the document seen by AFP.

"I will be pleasantly surprised if the political declaration, when it is completed, gives us that level of certainty", he said.

The DUP's arrangement to support the Government on key votes like finance and Brexit matters in exchange for £1 billion extra funding for Northern Ireland is under huge strain due to their dispute over the backstop.

May briefed her Cabinet and announced the deal outside of her Downing Street residence.

Spain wants to change the agreement to make it clear that future negotiations on The Rock are not included in the pact.

Her spokeswoman said in London May would work with the Spanish government on Gibraltar, a disputed British overseas territory.

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