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Breakthrough in talks

‘It’s a deal’: Johnson and Juncker hail new Brexit agreement

Michel Barnier announcing details of the deal

Boris Johnson and the EU have agreed a deal and the Prime Minister hopes he can gather enough support to get it through the Commons on Saturday.

A deal was announced this morning ahead of today’s EU Summit, raising hopes of a settlement despite the Democratic Unionist Party saying it could not sign the agreement as it stands.

Mr Johnson and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker announced the breakthrough this morning. 

The Prime Minister tweeted: “We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control.”

Mr Juncker added: “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.”

It is understood that Mr Johnson will ask EU leaders to oppose an extension to talks, undermining the Benn Act. Speaking in Brussels, he insisted that MPs either back this deal or he goes ahead and takes Britain out of the EU without a deal.

“I hope very much that fellow MPs in Westminster come together to get Brexit done and get this excellent deal over the line,” he said at a media conference.

DUP leaders said they still have concerns over the deal. In a joint statement released this morning, the DUP’s leader and deputy, Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds, said discussions with the government were “ongoing” but “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 statement said: “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.”

Arlene Foster: unhappy

Sterling soared to $1.30 , its highest since May. UK banks surged to the upside with Lloyds shares hitting their highest level in almost six months. Earlier, after the DUP statement the pound fell to $1.2765 and it remains volatile in view of the DUP’s position. Analysts say the pound could fall to $1.22 if Saturday’s sitting of parliament does not support the deal.

The Prime Minister’s hopes of securing a vote on Saturday are now on tenterhooks and he may look to Labour and LibDem rebels to back the agreement if the DUP continues to oppose it. Brexit minister Michael Gove said the PM will go ahead with the vote, with or without the DUP’s support.

It later emerged that most of the MPs sacked by Mr Johnson will support his deal, raising hopes that he will get it through. One of them, Nicolas Soames, said: “My quarrel with the PM was over nothing, except for No Deal. So there is a deal, and I will vote for it and so will many of my colleagues who had the whip taken away from them.”

The agreement will also require approval by the EU parliament.

The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, said the new deal rests on four main elements:

  • That Northern Ireland will remain aligned to a limited set of EU rules, notably related to goods
  • That Northern Ireland will remain in the UK’s customs territory, but will “remain an entry point” into the EU’s single market
  • That there is an agreement to maintain the integrity of the single market and satisfy the UK’s legitimate wishes over VAT
  • That Northern Ireland representatives will be able to decide whether to continue applying union rules in Northern Ireland or not every four years

The DUP has demanded assurances around the consent mechanism – the PM’s plan to give Northern Ireland a regular say over whatever comes into effect.

The Stormont Assembly – currently suspended – would have the chance to vote on Brexit arrangements four years after the Brexit transition period ends in 2020.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn immediately claimed the new deal was “even worse” than Theresa May’s deal which was rejected three times in the Commons. It will require the UK to make the divorce payments despite a pledge to the contrary by Mr Johnson.

“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.” said Mr Corbyn.

“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.”

Tory chairman James Cleverly said: “All Jeremy Corbyn offers is more dither and pointless delay.

“Jeremy Corbyn has spent three years trying to frustrate Brexit, undermined negotiations with his Surrender Act, and twice refused to support a general election. 

“He doesn’t trust the people, and he is simply not willing or able to make the difficult decisions needed to take Britain forward.” 

Scotland’s First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said: “Scotland did not vote for Brexit in any form, and SNP MPs will not vote for Brexit in any form – especially when it is clear that Scotland, alone of the nations of the UK, is being treated unfairly.”

If the SNP genuinely wish to avoid a no-deal Brexit then they must vote for this deal

– Jackson Carlaw, Scottish Tories

Scottish Tory interim leader Jackson Carlaw said the SNP leader should support the new Brexit deal if she is genuine about being against a no-deal scenario.

Mr Carlaw said that if she did not back the deal then the SNP’s previous warnings about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit will be exposed as political game-playing.

“If they genuinely wish to avoid a no-deal Brexit then they must vote for this deal,” he said.

If the SNP, Labour and the Liberal Democrats fail to support this deal then it will be clear to everyone that they have put their narrow party interests, grievances and ambitions over the best interests of the country and the desire of an overwhelming majority to move on.”

Business reaction

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said:  “If agreed by parliament, this deal unlocks a transition period, guarantees rights of the 4 million citizens living abroad in the UK and EU, and opens a pathway to a new EU/UK partnership. It would keep trade flowing freely across the island of Ireland and, most importantly, avoid a damaging no deal scenario. 

“Yet business has serious concerns about the direction of the future UK-EU relationship. Decades of free and frictionless trade with the UK’s largest market, forged by thousands of firms big and small, must not be abandoned. 

The deal remains inadequate on services, which make up 80% of the UK economy

– Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI

“Frictionless EU trade and regulatory alignment is vital for UK prosperity and jobs. The deal remains inadequate on services, which make up 80% of the UK economy. And big questions remain about the feasibility of negotiating a new trade agreement deep enough in a 14-month transition period. 

“If this deal does pass Parliament, firms will do everything possible to make it work for communities across the UK. Business will continue to challenge the Government to negotiate the vital future partnership on the basis of economic evidence.”

Dr Adam Marshall of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Business communities will recognise the huge efforts by UK and EU negotiators to reach an agreement. Understandably, many businesses will reserve judgment until they see the detail.   

“Businesses need a chance to analyse precisely what the terms of this agreement would mean for all aspects of their operations. This is particularly true for firms in and trading with Northern Ireland. As companies carefully consider the real-world implications, politicians must do the same. 

“Let’s not forget, we’ve been here before. There is still a long way to go before businesses can confidently plan for the future. Companies across the UK and around the world will be paying close attention to what happens next – and whether the deal agreed can secure parliamentary support. 

“For business, this deal may be the end of the beginning – but it is far from the beginning of the end of the Brexit process.

Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, said: “The UK’s food and drink manufacturers will welcome the news that a deal has been struck. They will hope that this means, definitively, that a no-deal exit on 31 October cannot happen. ” 


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