- Boris Johnson has agreed a draft Brexit deal with the EU.
- The agreement sets up a historic vote in the UK parliament on Saturday
- The prime minister is likely to struggle to pass any deal, after Johnson’s governing partners, the Democratic Unionist Party, said earlier on Thursday that they could not back the agreement as it stands.
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LONDON — Boris Johnson has agreed the terms of a Brexit deal, paving the way for a historic vote in the UK parliament which could finally see the UK leave the European Union.
Negotiators in Brussels worked intensively on Wednesday and Thursday to agree a revised version of the withdrawal agreement, which is set to be put before the UK parliament on Saturday.
The EU welcomed the agreement on Thursday.
“Where there is a will, there is a deal – we have one!” the European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker tweeted.
—Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) October 17, 2019
Focus will now turn to whether Johnson has enough support to pass the deal through the UK parliament, after Johnson’s governing partners rejected the agreement earlier on Thursday.
The Democratic Unionist Party, which lends the government 10 votes, said they could not support the current deal.
“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,” the party’s leader and deputy, Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds said in a statement.
“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.”
A spokesperson for the party confirmed their position had not changed, following the EU’s announcement of a deal.
The decision to push ahead with a deal, without the support of the DUP, means Johnson will struggle to secure support in parliament, despite winning over some members of his own party.
The self-styled “Spartans,” a group of 28 Brexit-supporting Conservative MPs who voted against Theresa May’s withdrawal plan three times, have indicated they are willing to back the deal.
Steve Baker, the most prominent member of the group and the chairman of the hardline European Research Group, said he was “hopeful” a deal could be struck after emerging from Downing Street on Tuesday, where he was briefed on talks.
But Johnson’s hopes of success may rest on a handful of Labour MPs in Leave-voting seats, who say they are willing to back a deal but may decide to vote against Johnson’s, as they voted against Theresa May’s.
Stephen Kinnock, the Labour MP for Averon, previously indicated he was willing to vote for a Conservative deal but on Tuesday said the prime minister should table an alternative proposal which could win cross-party backing.
The opposition Labour party said they would oppose the deal.
“From what we know, it seems the Prime Minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May’s, which was overwhelmingly rejected,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said.
“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.
“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.”
Opponents of Brexit said they would continue to fight against any deal.
“The fight to stop Brexit is far from over,” Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said in a statement.
“Boris Johnson’s deal would be bad for our economy, bad for our public services, and bad for our environment.
“The next few days will set the direction of our country for generations, and I am more determined than ever to stop Brexit.”
What is Boris’s deal?
The full terms of the draft deal between London and Brussels were published by the EU this morning.
Under the agreement the UK would leave the EU and almost entirely cut its existing trade and customs relationships with the bloc.
However, Northern Ireland would retain closer links on customs with the EU, in order to prevent the need for a hard border on the Island of Ireland.
The agreement is highly controversial and has been rejected by Johnson’s Northern Irish governing partners so far, because of fears that Northern Ireland will be kept effectively permanently tied to the European Union.
Johnson’s opponents in London also oppose the deal as they believe it would allow the rest of the UK to diverge from EU rules and regulations on labour laws and environmental protections.
Increasing numbers of members of the UK parliament also believe Brexit can be stopped and want to block the deal in order to make way for a second referendum.