Theresa May said the choices were difficult

The British cabinet has agreed to back the draft Brexit withdrawal agreement, in what's been described as a decisive step forward.

After a five hour meeting in Downing Street, UK PM Theresa May got the support of her ministers for the deal.

Speaking afterwards, she said: "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.

"The choices before us were difficult, particularly in relation to the Northern Ireland backstop.

"But the collective decision of cabinet was that the government should agree the draft withdrawal agreement and the outlying political declaration.

"This is a decisive step which enables us to move on and finalise the deal in the days ahead".

The Taoiseach's welcomed the draft deal, calling it "decisive progress".

He says the document's "backstop" clause gives the Government the insurance policy it needs to ensure there can be no hard border.

Leo Varadkar says all of Ireland's priorities have been recognised.

"Protecting the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement, maintaining the Common travel Area and related benefits for Irish and British citizens, re-affirming our place at the heart of the European Union and protecting trade, jobs and the economy.

"On each of these priorities, we have reached a satisfactory outcome today".

The European Commission's published the full draft agreement, which runs to 585 pages.

On the issue of the backstop agreement, it says there will be "full alignment" "unless and until" a new deal is reached.

This clause is also not time-limited.

It also commits to avoiding a hard Irish border "including any physical infrastructure or related checks and controls".

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says the draft deal is "a decisive, crucial step" in concluding the negotiations.