Brexit: EU and UK reach deal but DUP refuses support

A Brexit deal has been agreed between the UK and EU before a meeting of European leaders in Brussels.

Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker called it a “fair” outcome – and the EU Commission President said there was no need to extend the Brexit deadline.

He said: “We have a deal so why should we have a prolongation.”

This will be a boost for the PM, but he still faces a battle to get the deal through Parliament on Saturday, with the DUP opposing it.

Mr Johnson urged MPs to “come together” and “get this excellent deal over the line”.

He added: “Now is the moment for us to get Brexit done and then together to work on building our future partnership, which I think can be incredibly positive both for the UK and for the EU.”

Brexit should happen “without any more delay”, he added, so that the government could turn its attentions to domestic priorities.

The prime minister has repeatedly insisted the UK will leave the EU on 31 October – he could yet be forced to ask for an extension but it will be up to the leaders of the 27 member states – not Jean-Claude Juncker – whether to grant one.

The two sides worked round-the-clock on the legal text of the deal, but it will still need the approval of both the UK and European parliaments.

In a statement, the Democratic Unionist Party, which the government relies on for support in key votes, said: “These proposals are not, in our view, beneficial to the economic well-being of Northern Ireland and they undermine the integrity of the Union.”

It added: “Saturday’s vote in Parliament on the proposals will only be the start of a long process to get any Withdrawal Agreement Bill through the House of Commons.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the deal sounded “even worse” than the one negotiated by the PM’s predecessor, Theresa May, and “should be rejected” by MPs.

MPs have voted to hold an extra sitting in the Commons on Saturday to discuss the next steps.

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the government would hold a vote on the deal.

He added that he was “not contemplating defeat”, but if the plan did not get the backing of MPs, the alternative was leaving without a deal.

The DUP has been in an agreement with the Conservative Party since the 2017 election, which, in the past, gave the government a working majority.

But after resignations and the removal of the party whip from more than 20 Tory MPs in recent weeks, Mr Johnson now could face a tough battle to get his deal through Parliament.

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said he and Mr Juncker had been told by the PM that “he has faith in his ability to convince the majority he needs in the House of Commons”.

MPs passed a law in September that requires the PM to request an extension on 19 October if Parliament has not agreed a deal or backed leaving without a deal by that date.

While Boris Johnson may have a deal in Brussels, he absolutely does not have a deal in Westminster.

The DUP isn’t prepared to back this package because it does not give it a veto over the new customs arrangement, which it fears could threaten Northern Ireland’s position in the United Kingdom.

Team Johnson hopes that, by presenting this as a choice between Mr Johnson’s deal and no-deal, the DUP will buckle.

But the DUP doesn’t blink easily, and if it doesn’t, the signs are Mr Johnson could be defeated on Saturday, when the party’s 10 votes could be critical.

That could trigger the Benn Act, forcing a lengthy delay, and could encourage some opposition MP to trigger a motion of no confidence, paving the way for a general election.

It’s going to be a titanic tussle on Saturday.

What is in the deal?

Most of the deal is the same as the one agreed by Theresa May last year – the main change is the Northern Ireland proposals.

  • The UK will continue to abide by EU rules until the end of 2020, and possibly longer, to allow businesses to adjust
  • The UK will still pay an estimated £39bn “divorce bill”
  • The rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU, will be guaranteed

What’s changed?

  • Northern Ireland will be aligned to the EU single market
  • The controversial “backstop” – that critics feared could have kept the UK in a customs union with the EU indefinitely – has been removed
  • Northern Ireland will instead remain a part of the UK’s customs territory, so it will be included in any future trade deals struck by the government after Brexit
  • But Northern Ireland will also remain an entry point into the EU’s customs zone. The UK will not apply tariffs to products entering Northern Ireland as long as they are not destined for onward transportation across the border
  • A joint EU/UK committee will decide which goods are at risk of entering the single market and the UK will collect EU tariffs on them on behalf of the EU
  • The Northern Ireland Assembly – which has been suspended since January 2017 – will get a vote every four years on whether to continue with the new trading arrangements
  • The decision would be based on a simple majority, rather than requiring a majority of both unionists and nationalists to support the rules in order for them to pass

 

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