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New Brexit deal agreed with EU : Boris Johnson

New Brexit deal agreed with EU : Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson (File)
London, Oct 17 (IANS) | Publish Date: 10/17/2019 12:26:54 PM IST

A Brexit deal has been agreed between UK and EU negotiating teams before a meeting of European leaders in Brussels, reports said.

“We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted on Thursday, the BBC reported.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said it was a “balanced agreement”.

However, Juncker and Johnson have urged their respective parliaments to approve the deal, it is still uncertain whether it will be backed by a majority of MPs in the Parliament as Northern Ireland party DUP has rejected it.

“We have been involved in ongoing discussions with the government. As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues and there is a lack of clarity on VAT,” a statement from DUP leader Arlene Foster and the party’s Commons leader, Nigel Dodds, said.

“We will continue to work with the government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the UK.

No. 10 sources have told the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg that Johnson will later ask EU leaders to reject requests for an extension to the Brexit deadline of October 31.

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

Johnson’s proposals for a new Brexit deal hinged on getting rid of the controversial backstop - the solution negotiated between Theresa May and the EU to solve issues around the Irish border after the UK leaves.

By removing it, he hoped to secure the support of Brexiteers in his own party and the DUP - which could hold the key to getting the numbers for a successful vote in the Commons.

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the new deal rests on four main elements:

• That Northern Ireland will remain aligned to a limited set of EU rules, notably related to goods

• That Northern Ireland will remain in the UK’s customs territory, but will “remain an entry point” into the EU’s single market

• That there is an agreement to maintain the integrity of the single market and satisfy the UK’s legitimate wishes over VAT

• That Northern Ireland representatives will be able to decide whether to continue applying union rules in Northern Ireland or not every four years

Barnier told a press conference in Brussels that the final point - allowing for votes in the Northern Ireland Assembly - was “a cornerstone of our newly agreed approach”.

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.

Northern Ireland’s DUP rejects Johnson’s Brexit deal

The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, which props up the UK’s Conservative Party government, on Thursday said it could not support the Brexit deal in its current form.

The DUP, the dominant pro-UK party in Northern Ireland, effectively has a veto on any deal Prime Minister Boris Johnson puts to the House of Commons, the lower chamber of legislation, Efe news reported.

“We have been involved in ongoing discussions with the government. As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues and there is a lack of clarity on VAT,” a statement from DUP leader Arlene Foster and the party’s Commons leader, Nigel Dodds, said.

“We will continue to work with the government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the UK. 

The pound fell 0.5 per cent after the announcement. The DUP’s consent to a deal is crucial if Johnson is to stand any chance at wielding a parliamentary majority. 

How to maintain a soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is one of the main stumbling blocks in the Brexit negotiations.

The Irish backstop, an insurance policy written into Theresa May’s withdrawal deal, would have kept the UK territory in some sort of EU customs union to avoid checks, but it was unpopular among Brexit supporters in the Commons. Johnson’s proposed alternative would keep Northern Ireland in parts of the single market but pull it out of the customs union with checks hypothetically taking place in the Irish Sea, an idea the DUP has previously rejected.

The PM is hoping to get a deal agreed during the European Council meeting taking place over the next two days.

If he fails, he will be legally obliged to seek an extension.

Speaking before the summit, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel said there was still no deal but insisted the EU would continue to the last minute to find an agreement.

“There’s been movement in recent days and the UK side has shown it is willing to negotiate.”

Any deal Johnson lands will still have to pass through the House of Commons.

The DUP has been in a confidence and supply 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, Johnson now could face a tough battle to get his deal through Parliament.

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