The United Kingdom and the European Union have struck an outline Brexit deal after days of intense seesaw negotiations, but it still needs to be formally approved by both parliaments.
Hours before a summit of all 28 EU national leaders, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said: “We have one. It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the U.K., and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted the two sides had struck a “great new deal,” and urged U.K. lawmakers to ratify it in a special session 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 <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/GetBrexitDone?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#GetBrexitDone</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/TakeBackControl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#TakeBackControl</a>
However, immediately complicating matters was Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which didn’t waste a minute to say they could not back the outline deal because of provisions for the Irish border.
The party, a key ally of Johnson, says it stands by a statement issued earlier by party leader Arlene Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds that said the DUP “could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues.”
The DUP said its position was unchanged after the announcement of the provisional deal.
Johnson needs all the support he can get to push any deal past a deeply divided Parliament, and without the support of the DUP’s 10 lawmakers, Johnson may struggle to get it ratified.
Read the outline Brexit deal below:
Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn echoed the DUP, saying the deal brokered Thursday is “even worse” than the settlement reached by Johnson’s predecessor that was repeatedly rejected by lawmakers.
The U.K. Parliament had already rejected a previous deal three times proposed by Theresa May.
From what we know, Johnson’s negotiated a worse deal than Theresa May. This sell-out deal risks our rights, protections and NHS. It won’t bring the country together and should be rejected. <a href=”https://t.co/ZMKSNt2Nc9″>pic.twitter.com/ZMKSNt2Nc9</a>
Corbyn said the “sellout 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.”
But the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator remains optimistic, saying the deal answers the uncertainty created by Brexit, adding that “we have delivered, and we have delivered together.”
In a first reaction, Michel Barnier said the U.K. now agrees to pay its financial commitments to the EU, estimated at around 39 billion pounds (about $66 billion Cdn).
Irish border sticking point for negotiators
Technical negotiators struggled to fine tune customs and sales tax regulations that will have to manage trade in goods between Northern Ireland and Ireland — where the U.K. and the EU share their only land border.
After months of gloom over the stalled Brexit process, EU leaders have sounded upbeat this week. French President Emmanuel Macron said Wednesday, “I want to believe that a deal is being finalized,” while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said negotiations were “in the final stretch.”
They were proved right on Thursday.
Upon the news, the pound hit a five-month high compared to the U.S. dollar.
Johnson — who took office in July vowing the U.K. would finally leave the EU on Oct. 31, come what may — likened Brexit to climbing Mount Everest.