EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has tried to sell his deal with Theresa May by insisting it will fulfil the central pledge made by the Leave campaign during the Brexit referendum.
Speaking to the media as the deal hung in the balance, Barnier borrowed the language of Brexit supporters in a bid to win over its critics in London.
He said: “Both the EU and the UK will have full control of their own legislation and rule-making. This is essential, on our side, for the integrity of the single market. It is essential for the UK in terms to taking back control.”
Barnier made the comments after gaining the backing of EU27 ministers for the deal at a meeting in Brussels.
While that was a formality, his efforts to help the prime minister promote the merits of the deal reveal the EU’s concern about the possibility of it being voted down by MPs.
“We are in fact at a decisive moment in this process,” Barnier added. “No one should lose sight of the progress that has been achieved in Brussels and in London … Globally speaking, this deal is fair and balanced.”
European politicians who met with Barnier played down the possibility of changes being made to the deal – a demand of some Brexit supporters who have stayed in May’s Cabinet.
German Europe minister Michael Roth said: “Ultimately I can only urge everyone to use reason and realise that no deal better than the one on the table can be reached.”
Belgian deputy prime minister Didier Reynders said: “It’s the best after so many months of negotiations … Here it will survive – we’re waiting for the same situation in London.”
Asked whether the EU could do anything to help May, he replied: “We have tried to do that for some months.”
Despite the unpredictable situation in the UK, Czech Europe minister Ales Chmelar said the EU were “determined” to sign-off the deal at a summit on Sunday and was optimistic about the chances of it clearing the Commons.
“I suppose that the situation in Britain will consolidate and we will be speaking to a government with a clear majority also for the proposals,” he said.
Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan sent a message back from Brussels for Conservative MPs rebelling over the deal.
He said: “My message to my parliamentary colleagues back in London is: back the prime minister 100%, be realistic, and accept that what we need is a deal here that will last for the future and telling the prime minister what to do all the time is not going to make anything better.”
UK and EU negotiators were in talks on Monday over the draft political declaration which, along with the Withdrawal Agreement, makes up the Brexit deal.
The declaration, which is now 20 pages long and is due to be published on Tuesday, will set the framework for the trade talks will begin after Brexit.