Stick up the bunting and blow up the party balloons: after two years and seven months of negotiations, it appears as though a Brexit deal might finally have been agreed just two weeks shy of the agreed deadline date.
Like him or loathe him, Boris Johnson has achieved what he set out to do: securing a Brexit deal in time for the Halloween deadline.
But is the agreement any good? Well, the man himself seems to think so, coming away from a series of meetings with EU chiefs in Brussels saying ‘we’ve got a great new deal that takes back control.’
And incredibly, the head honcho of the EU’s negotiating team, Jean-Claude Juncker, agrees with Boris – the first time in two-and-a-half years that the UK and EU have seen eye to eye. Juncker said that the deal is a ‘fair and balanced agreement’.
So that’s the end of Brexit then, right? A deal has been done and we can walk away to start planning for the future.
Erm, well, not really.
A Spanner in the Works
Before the new Brexit rules can be passed into law, they still need to be ratified and approved by the respective UK and European parliaments.
And this is where the problems begin for Boris. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has claimed that the new deal is ‘even worse’ that the one previously negotiated by Theresa May, and should be rejected by his fellow MPs. If he can summon up support from his party colleagues, the Lib Dems and perhaps even some Tory rebels, there is a chance the agreement will be voted down in parliament.
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. pic.twitter.com/ZMKSNt2Nc9
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) October 17, 2019
And the there’s the small matter of sealing the support of the DUP, who have been a stick in the mud throughout this tawdry process.
The Northern Irish firm are said to be concerned of how the split from the EU will affect them, with pro-EU parties such as Sinn Fein likely to garner new-found support should the deal not work for the Irish people.
And that might have the effect of bringing the Northern part of Ireland in closer relations with the Republic, which the DUP don’t want.
The Conservatives relied heavily on the support of the DUP in the disastrous last General Election, and Boris and co will be reluctant to risk the ire of the Irish party ahead of another possible election in the coming months.
As if the Prime Minister didn’t have enough on his plate, he also has to get both the UK and EU parliaments to sign off on his deal by the close of play on October 19.
If he doesn’t, the law that was passed by MPs in September demanding an extension if a deal was not agreed by this date would come into force.
So What is in Boris’ Brexit Deal?
Many of the same terms that have made up previous versions of the agreement remain.
But the one stumbling block that ultimately cost Theresa May her job was the Irish backstop, an issue which has proven immovable thus far.
And so Boris has, to all intents and purposes, removed the backstop altogether in a attempt to get the DUP on side as well as hard-line Brexiteers in his own party.
The main problem is that, in lieu of a backstop, Northern Ireland will remain aligned to the EU under a special set of rules – particularly with regards to trade and the movement of goods. That’s not something that will please many north of the Irish border.
As far as customs is concerned, Northern Ireland will operate under UK jurisdiction but will remain an ‘entry point’ into the EU’s single market.
Michele Barnier also referred to how votes will take place in the Northern Ireland Assembly, with representatives able to decide whether they want to continue applying the rules of the union every four years – the ‘cornerstone’ of the new deal.
Under the terms, any decision would be made by a simple majority of numbers – it wouldn’t require the approval of both unionists and nationalists.
So, all of Boris Johnson’s hard work, alongside his negotiators, has come down to this.
In it’s current form, the deal is unlikely to pass DUP muster – nor that of opposition parties – and for that reason any hopes that Brexit is signed, sealed and delivered are rather premature.
Once again, it appears as if negotiations will continue until the eleventh hour to get this over the line….