By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
The draft Brexit deal reached between the U.K. and EU has been approved by the Cabinet, British Prime Minister Theresa May said Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters outside 10 Downing Street following a five-hour-long Cabinet meeting, May said the collective agreement of her Cabinet was to agree to the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline future framework.
May said the draft agreement was “the best that could be negotiated”.
"These documents were the result of thousands of hours of hard negotiation by U.K. 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," she added.
She said the Cabinet had had a “long, detailed and impassioned debate,” adding that she would make a statement in the House of Commons on Thursday.
May said the choices before them were difficult, especially in relation to the Northern Ireland backstop, "but the collective decision of Cabinet was that the government should agree to the draft withdrawal agreement and the outline political declaration."
"This is a decisive step which enables us to move on and finalize the deal in the days ahead," she added.
The key meeting discussed the draft Brexit agreement reached by negotiators in Brussels last week.
Calling for a crucial Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, May had said a draft agreement on Brexit has been reached with the EU negotiators in a major development after more than two years of Brexit negotiations.
According to local media reports, the EU accepted the idea of whole-U.K. customs union with the bloc in a major concession to please U.K.'s demands to protect its territorial integrity.
A previous EU version of backstop would keep Northern Ireland anchored in the EU single market and customs union until a solution is found on the border issue in the island of Ireland.
In return, Britain is reported to have agreed that it will not be allowed to exit the backstop unless and until the EU is convinced that there is no prospect of a return to a hard border.
The full details of the deal are expected to come to daylight on Thursday with May’s statement to the parliament.
The U.K. is set to leave the EU in march 2019.