The keys to the deal lies with the DUP, which provides critical support to Johnson’s government.
On Thursday, in a historic development, at the very last minute, Britain has managed to clinch a Brexit deal with the EU. However, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson still has to get it approved in what is likely to be a knife-edged vote in parliament.
“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 a testament to our commitment to find solutions,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a tweet a few hours before the start of an EU summit in Brussels.
“I believe it is high time to complete the divorce process and move on, as swiftly as possible, to the negotiation on the European Union’s future partnership with the United Kingdom,” said Juncker in a letter.
Johnson, who was due to meet the 27 EU member states at the summit later today declared: “we have a great new Brexit deal”.
He is now hoping to get the deal approved in a vote at an extraordinary session of the British parliament on Saturday in order to pave the way for an orderly departure on Oct. 31.
Jeremy Corbyn, the head of the main opposition Labour Party said in Brussels, he was “unhappy” with the deal and would vote against it. Lawmakers in the Labour Party said, they had been told to vote for another referendum on Saturday.
Negotiators have worked frantically this week to hammer out a draft compromise agreement acceptable to both sides on the question of the Irish border, which has turned out to be the biggest hurdle in Brexit.
The conundrum was how to prevent the frontier becoming a backdoor into the EU’s single market without erecting checkpoints that could undermine the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended decades of conflict in the province.
The draft agreement that has been hammered out keeps Northern Ireland in the UK customs area however tariffs will apply on goods crossing from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland if they are deemed to be headed further, to Ireland and the bloc’s single market.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which provides critical support to Johnson’s government, has said, the new text was not acceptable – a step that could spur hardline Brexiteers in his Conservative party also to oppose ratification absent additional changes.
“These proposals are not, in our view, beneficial to the economic wellbeing of Northern Ireland and they undermine the integrity of the union,” said the party. Given this scenario the parliamentary vote on Saturday is likely to be very volatile.
Johnson’s government does not have a majority in the 650-seat parliament. He will need at least 318 votes to get the deal through. The DUP has 10 votes.
Incidentally, in the past the British parliament had defeated, three times, similar deals struck by Theresa May.
“The ball again is in the British parliament’s court … I hope it goes through this time,” said Finnish Prime Minister Antti Rinne in Brussels. “I hope we are now at the end of this process. But there are still many doubts – for instance, inside the British parliament.”