Finally, the much anticipated divorce seems likely as the UK and EU have agreed a Brexit deal in the final hours of negotiations, keeping alive Boris Johnson’s hopes of taking the country out of the bloc on October 31.
But in a serious blow to the prime minister’s chances of winning a vote in the Commons on Saturday, the DUP confirmed it will “be unable to support” the deal.
Announcing the agreement on Thursday morning, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said it was a “fair and balanced”.
Boris Johnson said it was a “great new deal that takes back control” and urged MPs to vote for it.
🇪🇺🤝🇬🇧 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
The leaders of the EU27 will be asked to formally rubber stamp the agreement at the two-day summit in Brussels, which begins today.
MPs are then expected to be asked to approve the agreement in an emergency Commons sitting on 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 #GetBrexitDone #TakeBackControl— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 17, 2019
The DUP is digging in over the prospect of a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, as well as the issues of consent regarding the suspended Stormont Assembly.
Another major issue in the PM’s proposals are whether EU VAT rates would apply in Northern Ireland.
The party is seen as having significant influence over the stance of hardline Tory Brexiteers in the European Research Group (ERG) and hence are crucial in getting any deal approved by parliament.
But Wednesday night, ERG chairman and self-styled “Brexit hardman” Steve Baker signalled that his group could give its backing.
Without the support of the DUP’s 10 MPs and a number of Tory Brexit purists, Johnson would need to rely on some Labour MPs defying Jeremy Corbyn and voting with the government.
A group of 19 Labour backbenchers have indicated they are willing to vote for a deal.
Corbyn said today the agreement hammered out by the prime minister was an “even worse deal” than Theresa May’s.
“These proposals risk triggering a race to the bottom on rights and protections: putting food safety at risk, cutting environmental standards and workers’ rights, and opening up our NHS to a takeover by US private corporations,” he said.
“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.”
Boris Johnson told the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers on Wednesday his situation was like climbing Mount Everest.