UK Cabinet shown Brexit deal text

By BLOOMBERG

LONDON • UK Prime Minister Theresa May has begun briefing her Cabinet on the text of the almost-complete Brexit deal, as her negotiators seek to finalise the last outstanding issue in Brussels.

Senior ministers have been invited into a private reading room in a building adjoining May’s offices to examine the 95% of the withdrawal package that’s been agreed so far, according to people familiar with the matter.

What’s missing is the most contentious part of the deal — the guarantee to keep goods trade flowing freely across the Irish border. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said yesterday “intensive” negotiations are ongoing, and played down the idea that a resolution was close.

“I would urge caution that an imminent breakthrough is not necessarily to be taken for granted, not by a long shot,” Coveney said in a speech in Dublin. “People seem to make the same mistake over and over again assuming that if the UK Cabinet agrees something, then that’s it then, everything is agreed.”

Various options are now being negotiated in detail by British and European officials in Brussels, according to people familiar with the positions of both sides.

If these talks are successful, officials will declare that “decisive progress” has been made on the terms of the UK’s exit from the bloc. British officials say this could happen in the next few days.

May will still need to get the deal, including the so-called Irish border backstop plan, approved by her Cabinet and later by Parliament — where she’s likely to face considerable opposition.

But two people familiar with the issue suggested she would not need to wait for Cabinet approval before signing up in principle to the terms negotiated in Brussels.