The EU and the UK government have a deal. The parliament is a different question.
“We have arrived at an agreement with the British government on an ordered withdrawal of the United Kingdom and the European Union and also on the framework for our future relationship,” the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told the press.
🇪🇺🤝🇬🇧 Where there is a will, there is a #deal – we have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions. I recommend that #EUCO endorses this deal. pic.twitter.com/7AfKyCZ6k9
— Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) October 17, 2019
Negotiations over the outstanding issues on VAT and customs appear to have been resolved, Barnier confirmed.
But there is no guarantee that the House of Commons will support the deal.
Asked repeatedly whether UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave him any assurances on this subject, Barnier reiterated that the agreement has moved from the notion of “a backstop” to a notion of “consent” for both communities in Northern Ireland. He did not comment on the internal dynamics of British politics.
Johnson took to Twitter to describe the deal as a “great new Brexit deal,” which he suggests “takes back control,” urging the British parliament to get Brexit done and approve it.
The 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. #GetBrexitDone #TakeBackControl
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 17, 2019
As the plan stands, the UK will have a limited customs border on the Irish Sea; while Northern Ireland will formally remain part of the UK custom’s territory, it would apply EU rules and procedures on tariffs, but the regime will be confirmed by the local parliament, Stormont.
If Stormont votes to opt-out from the common customs and regulatory regime, there is a two-year cooling-off period, when all sides try to find an alternative way of complying with the Good Friday Agreement and avoid a hard border.
On Thursday morning, the DUP had said they would not consent. Following Johnson’s announcement, their objection “still stands,” according to the BBC. Therefore, it seems the deal was achieved despite rather the DUP rather than with their consent.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described the agreement as “even worse” than that secured by former UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
Northern Ireland is legally in the UK’s customs territory but would apply the EU’s rules and procedures on tariffs. But the alignment with single market rules for industrial goods and agri-food products means that in substance the effective border of the UK is moved to the Irish Sea.
The intensity and scope of Irish Sea checks would be limited by a risk-analysis. There is a UK-EU Joint Committee envisaged that can veto which kinds of goods enjoy an exemption from tariffs and controls and a system of rebates for goods shipped from Great Britain to Northern Ireland if the EU tariff is higher than the UK tariff.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hailed the agreement as “fair and balanced.” European Council President Donald Tusk called for the completion of the withdrawal process “as swiftly as possible,” in order to move into the negotiation of a future partnership.
The pound surged after Johnson’s announcement both against the dollar and the Euro.