Brussels / The European Union and the United Kingdom have agreed on a Brexit deal following marathon, last-minute negotiations, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said Thursday.
Johnson had hoped to land an agreement in time for the European Council summit taking place over the next two days in order to submit it to a vote in the House of Commons by Saturday.
“We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control — now Parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday so we can move on to other priorities like the cost of living, the NHS, violent crime and our environment,” a message shared on the Conservative Party PM’s Twitter page said.
“This new deal ensures that we take back control of our laws, borders, money and trade without disruption and established a new relationship with the EU based on free trade and friendly cooperation.
“Te anti-democratic backstop has been abolished. The people of Northern Ireland will be in charge of the laws that they live by, and — unlike the backstop — will have the right to end the special arrangement if they so choose.”
Johnson has repeatedly insisted that his government would deliver Brexit by 31 October.
One of the main stumbling blocks for negotiators was how to replace the Irish backstop in the previous withdrawal deal, a policy that would have ensured a soft border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland by keeping the former in a kind of customs union.
The measure proved unpopular with Brexit-supporting Tory MPs and ultimately led to former PM Theresa May’s downfall.
“The negotiators reached an agreement on a revised Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and on a revised Political Declaration on 17 October 2019,” Juncker said in a letter to Donald Tusk, president of the European Council.
“I recommend that the European Council endorsed the revised Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration at its forthcoming meeting.
“As I have indicated to you in the past, I believe it is high time to complete the withdrawal process and move on, as swiftly as possible.”
However, the deal was greeted with a cold reception from the leader of the UK’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn.
“From what we know, it seems the prime minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May’s, which was overwhelmingly rejected. These proposals risk triggering a race to the bottom on rights and protections.
“This sell-out deal won’t bring the country together and should be rejected. The best way to get Brexit sorted is to give the people the final say in a public vote,” the head of the UK’s official opposition said.
Earlier, the Democratic Unionist Party, a Northern Irish outfit that props up Johnson’s minority government in Parliament, said it could not yet support for the Brexit deal until some details, including VAT arrangements, were ironed out.
“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 United Kingdom.
If the agreement is approved by the Council, Johnson will bring it before the House of Commons.
However, should UK lawmakers reject the revised agreement, he may be forced to ask the EU for an extension, as per a law passed by the opposition last month. (October 17, 2019, EFE/Practica Español)
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