After months of speculation, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen meet today to finalise a deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol.
In a statement released on Sunday night, the pair said they had “agreed to continue their work in person towards shared, practical solutions for the range of complex challenges around the Protocol”.
But there are still many unanswered questions about the details of the deal and whether MPs will get a final say on its contents.
What will Rishi Sunak and Ursula von der Leyen discuss?
Downing Street has said that Mr Sunak and Ms von der Leyen are set to meet in Windsor at “late lunchtime” for final talks, but it is unclear exactly what will be discussed at the meeting.
It is expected that they will use the meeting to sign off on the final details of the deal, with the No 10 spokesperson claiming the Prime Minister “wants to ensure any deal fixes the practical problems on the ground”.
Mr Sunak also wants to reportedly guarantee that the deal ensures “trade flows freely within the whole of the UK, safeguards Northern Ireland’s place in our Union and returns sovereignty to the people of Northern Ireland”.
Once that meeting is complete, the Prime Minister will hold a meeting of his Cabinet where he, alongside Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris, will update his top team on the talks.
This will build on updates that Cabinet has received throughout the process.
When is the deal going to be announced?
A spokesperson for No 10 has said that, if a deal is finalised in today’s meeting, it will be announced at a joint press conference in Windsor later this afternoon.
Mr Sunak will then head to Westminster, where he will deliver a statement to the House of Commons outlining the details of the deal.
Speculation that the deal would be announced on Monday began after MPs were last week handed a three-line whip, which means they must attend Parliament.
MPs will be allowed to respond to the deal, which has proved controversial among many backbenchers, following the statement.
Many DUP and Eurosceptic Conservative MPs have suggested they are reserving judgment until they have seen the details of the agreement.
Some are likely to object to the deal replacing the existing Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament, including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has previously stated it would be a “great mistake” to drop the legislation.
A senior Government source said that Mr Sunak would meet with MPs over the coming days to convince them not to oppose his Brexit plans.
The source said: “The Prime Minister has been engaging with colleagues but there has obviously been a limit to what we could say while talks with the EU have been ongoing.”
How will the new deal operate?
The deal on the table is aimed at tweaking the Northern Ireland Protocol brought in under Boris Johnson in order to ease the transport of goods between Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The full details of the deal have remained tightly under wraps, but its expected that it will include a new system of “green lanes” and “red lanes”.
This will allow businesses transporting goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland to certify that their shipments will not be moved onward into the EU single market.
However, it is not expected to eliminate the role of EU judges in ruling on disputes related to the Protocol, which is a key demand of the European Research Group (ERG) of Tory MPs.
It is also understood that the EU’s “state aid” and VAT laws will no longer apply to Northern Ireland, which was previously a red line for the EU, but exactly how this will work is unknown.
The Northern Ireland Assembly is expected to get a veto over the application of any new EU laws which will apply to the region, but this will not apply to existing laws.
It is currently unclear whether the deal will alter the legally binding text of the existing UK-EU treaty, or just constitute a non-binding agreement between the two parties.
What concessions has the UK secured?
Government sources told The Times on Monday that Mr Sunak had managed to secure “significant and far reaching” concessions from the EU in the new deal.
“This is a better deal than any of [Sunak’s] predecessors got,” one former Cabinet minister told the paper.
“Frankly it sounds like something that Boris [Johnson] would have grabbed with both hands if he’d been offered it.”
One of the most significant compromises is thought to be that the deal will alter the existing Brexit withdrawal treaty with the EU, something which officials had previously ruled out.
Other expected changes to the EU’s stance include allowing Northern Ireland to be exempt from the bloc’s rules on state aid, VAT and excise duty, which was seen as a red line when the current deal with the EU was struck.
The introduction of a “trusted trader” scheme had also previously been muted by Brussels but is expected to play a part in the deal to be announced today.
It is not clear how Mr Sunak managed to obtain concessions that were off the table when Mr Johnson negotiated a deal with the EU.
Former Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told Sky News on Monday that Mr Sunak had created a “relationship of trust” which has allowed him to go further than his predecessors in negotiations.
“This isn’t a reflection on previous prime ministers particularly. If you get on well and win their trust, I think, in all our experiences, more business can be done,” he said.
Will MPs get to vote on the new deal?
The government has not confirmed whether MPs will be given a chance to vote on any new deal, but No 10 has said they will get a chance to express their views.
It is expected that, if a vote were held, it would likely be put to MPs sometime this week.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a former Commons leader and Brexit Secretary, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that a deal was not likely to be held on Monday.
“Nobody bothers to pay any attention to Erskine May or the order paper,” he said on Monday morning.
“And, if they had, they would have known that unless there was a recall of Parliament, which is a very rarely used technique. There couldn’t have been a vote today.”
Asked if a vote would be held, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told the BBC on Sunday: “Parliament will have its ability to express itself.”
This has angered many eurosceptic MPs, with senior figures in the ERG suggesting they could seek to force a vote if one is not promised.
The group’s chair Mark Francois said on Sunday it would be “incredibly unwise” to bring in any new deal without giving MPs a vote.
He told Sky News: “Don’t try to bounce Parliament next week because that is likely to go badly wrong.”
Labour has suggested that it would back the deal if it were brought to a vote, with the Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy telling the BBC that “our judgment is that any deal that emerges will be better than what we’ve got now”.