Theresa May has rolled the dice on a epic Brexit gamble as she presented a draft deal to key members of her cabinet.
The Prime Minister invited leading ministers into Downing Street for one-to-one briefings on an agreement struck by negotiators in Brussels.
The full cabinet will meet at 2pm on Wednesday to sign off the deal, which will then be sent back to Brussels for EU leaders to consider next week.
But as ministers including Liam Fox, Chris Grayling and Andrea Leadsom were pouring over the text in Downing Street last night, there were dramatic scenes in Parliament as Tory Brexiteers and the DUP launched a frantic operation to shoot down the deal.
According to Irish broadcaster RTE, the draft agreement would see the whole UK enter into a temporary customs arrangement with the EU, in the event that the Irish border issue is unresolved by the end of a 20-month transition period.
Northern Ireland will also follow certain Brussels regulations to ensure friction-free trade with the EU.
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson claimed if the leaked reports about the deal were true, “this is just about as bad as it could possibly be.”
He added: “We are going to stay in the customs union on this deal, we are going to stay effectively in large parts of the single market, and that is vassal state stuff.
“For the first time in a thousand years, this place, this Parliament will not have a say over the laws that govern this country.”
Fellow Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg also piled in on the Prime Minister, saying: “She hasn’t so much struck a deal as surrendered to Brussels and given in to them on everything that they want and tried to frustrate Brexit.
“It is not so much the vassal state anymore as the slave state.”
Former Brexit secretary David Davis described the presentation of the draft agreement as “the moment of truth”, adding: “Cabinet and all Conservative MPs should stand up, be counted and say no to this capitulation.”
Despite suggestions members of the cabinet could resign over the deal, May’s top team has so far held together.
Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith recalled an old Margaret Thatcher quote for members of the cabinet who are refusing to quit over the deal: “Your spine does not yet meet your brain.”
Even if May is able to get the deal agreed by her cabinet, she still faces an almighty challenge to get it through Parliament.
Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the DUP – which props up the Conservative government thanks to its 10 MPs – was scathing about the draft text.
He warned it would leave Northern Ireland “subject to the rules and laws set in Brussels with no democratic input or any say.”
Dodds said he would wait to see the actual document before reaching a firm position, but warned: “It’s going to be a very, very hard sell I would have thought.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn indicated he would instruct his MPs to vote against the deal when it comes before parliament, saying: “We will look at the details of what has been agreed when they are available. But from what we know of the shambolic handling of these negotiations, this is unlikely to be a good deal for the country.”
If the cabinet backs the deal at the emergency meeting, EU diplomats scheduled to meet in Brussels on Wednesday could set the wheels in motion for a special summit to be held before the end of November where European leaders will sign off the agreement.