UNITED KINGDOM — The United Kingdom and the European Union have agreed a new Brexit deal after months of tense negotiations, according to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
According to Juncker, the new withdrawal agreement “focused on the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland and sought to identify a mutually satisfactory solution to address the specific circumstances on the island of Ireland.”
The question of the Irish border has been a major sticking point in negotiations and while both Johnson and the EU have agreed to the new terms, the Prime Minister’s next challenge will be getting his deal approved in the UK Parliament.
Former Prime Minister Theresa May also secured a deal with the EU, but failed to pass it through the House of Commons on three occasions.
Johnson, announcing the new deal in a tweet, said it “takes back control” and urged Parliament “to get Brexit done on Saturday” when lawmakers are next due to meet.
Support from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party may be crucial for Johnson getting majority support for his plan when he takes it to Parliament on Saturday.
Shortly after the new withdrawal deal was announced, however, the DUP said its earlier position — of rejecting the new plan — was unchanged.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said in a news conference in Brussels that the new text provides “legal certainty in every area where Brexit like any separation creates uncertainty.”
He said Northern Ireland will remain aligned to a “limited” set of EU rules related to goods, that it will remain in the UK’s customs territory — but also the entry point into the EU’s single market — and the Northern Ireland assembly will be given a vote on whether to continue to apply EU rules in the region or not every four years.
Barnier added that the proposal also covers the transition period, which will run until the end of 2020 — with the possibility to extend.
UK opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn released a statement after the announcement, saying Johnson’s agreement was worse than what was previously agreed by May.
“From what we know, it seems the Prime Minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May’s, which was overwhelmingly rejected,” Corbyn 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.”
If Johnson can’t get parliamentary support for his plan by Saturday, he is legally obliged to write to the EU requesting a Brexit extension until January 31, 2020. He has until October 31 — just 14 days — until Britain is due to exit the bloc.