Michael Gove led senior Brexit supporters in congratulating Theresa May for securing a deal to withdraw the UK from the EU that promises to guarantee the rights of citizens and prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.
The environment secretary, who led the Vote Leave campaign, claimed Theresa May had “won” and hailed it as a “significant personal achievement”.
The prime minister made several concessions, including a divorce bill of about £50bn and allowing British courts to refer cases about EU citizens to the European court of justice for another eight years.
But Gove insisted this was acceptable as it was “time-limited” and argued any Brexit supporter should be delighted that the UK would be free from the ECJ, the single market and customs union.
He also defended the promise of full alignment with the EU to ensure no hard border in Northern Ireland if there were no deal, saying it was right for the UK to have the same goals on standards for issues such as the environment.
Other cabinet ministers congratulated the prime minister, including Andrea Leadsom, a prominent leave supporter, and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, who supports a softer Brexit.
The most senior leave supporter not to give an immediate reaction was Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, who told May on Thursday that a deal must work for the whole of the UK.
The shadow Brexit secretary, Keir Starmer, responded by saying it was good that trade talks could start but the public needed to know “the political price of compromise”.
He said: “The priority for both sides now must be to agree transitional arrangements on the same basic terms as we have now. That means staying in the single market and a customs union for a time-limited period. We will also need to know the political price of the deal struck and the impact any compromise that has been agreed will have on our future relationship with the EU.
“As the talks now move on to a discussion about Britain’s future relationship with the European Union, Theresa May must seriously reflect on her approach to the negotiations so far. We cannot have another year of chaos and confusion or the farcical scenes we saw earlier on in the week that put jobs and the economy at risk.”
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader and first minister of Scotland, said the move on to phase two of talks was good “but the devil is in the detail and things now get really tough”.
She said she still believed that staying in single market and customs union was the only sensible option and argued any special arrangements for Northern Ireland must be available to other UK nations.
Nigel Farage, the former Ukip leader, said the breakthrough meant it was now time to “move on to the next stage of humiliation”.
This article was written by Rowena Mason Deputy political editor, for theguardian.com on Friday 8th December 2017 09.23 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010