Brexit deal: Theresa May's speech on EU withdrawal agreement, in full

'This is a decisive step which enables us to move on and finalise the deal in the days ahead'

Theresa May says cabinet has agreed draft Brexit withdrawal agreement

Theresa May announced that the cabinet had made a collective decision to approve the draft Brexit deal after a "long, detailed and impassioned debate".

Her two-and-a-half minute speech on the steps of Downing Street ended with a declaration that she believed the agreement was "in the best interests of our entire United Kingdom."

Here is the prime minister’s statement in full:

“The cabinet has just had a long, detailed and impassioned debate on the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration on our future relationship with the European Union.

“These documents were the result of thousands of hours of hard negotiation by UK officials and many, many meetings which I and other ministers held with our EU counterparts.

“I firmly believe that the draft withdrawal agreement was the best that could be negotiated and it was for the cabinet to decide whether to move on in the talks.

“The choices before us were difficult, particularly in relation to the Northern Ireland backstop, but the collective decision of cabinet was that the government should agree the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration.

“This is a decisive step which enables us to move on and finalise the deal in the days ahead.

“These decisions were not taken lightly but I believe it is a decision that is firmly in the national interest.

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“When you strip away the detail the choice before us is clear. This deal, which delivers on the vote of the referendum, which brings back control of our money, laws and borders, ends free movement, protects jobs, security and our union, or leave with no deal, or no Brexit at all.

“I know that there will be difficult days ahead. This is a decision which will come under intense scrutiny, and that is entirely as it should be, and entirely understandable.

“But the choice was this deal, which enables us to take back control and build a brighter future for our country, or going back to square one, with more division, more uncertainty, and a failure to deliver on the referendum.

“It’s my job as prime minister to explain the decisions that the government has taken, and I stand ready to do that, beginning tomorrow with a statement in parliament.

“If I may end by just saying this: I believe that what I owe to this country is to take decisions that are in the national interest and I firmly believe, with my head and my heart, that this is a decision that is in the best interests of our entire United Kingdom.”

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