Brexit deal reached, but hurdles remain - GulfToday

Brexit deal reached but hurdles remain

Boris Johnson and Jean Claude Juncker

Boris Johnson with Jean Claude Juncker

The clinching of a new deal by the European Union (EU) and the British government setting the terms of Britain’s exit from the bloc does come as pleasant news, but major hurdles remain.

The deal is certainly a personal victory for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was repeatedly told by EU leaders that they would not give him a new deal.

However, he now needs to sell the accord to a recalcitrant Parliament and faces an uphill task.

Johnson’s political rivals have already launched a chorus of criticism that leaves the deal’s survival in doubt.

The Parliament had defeated a previous deal struck by Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May three times.

In an extraordinary Saturday sitting, the first since 1982, parliament will vote on approving the deal. Britain is due to leave the EU on Oct.31.

Johnson’s Conservatives have no majority in the 650-seat House of Commons and his opponents are trying to force both a delay to Brexit and another referendum.

Other options include collapsing his government so that others can take control of Brexit negotiations.

The prime minister needs at least 318 votes to be certain of victory. This number is less than 326 because seven Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party members do not sit, four speakers do not vote and four ‘tellers’ who help count votes are not counted (two of the tellers must support the deal and two must be against).

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Brexit party leader Nigel Farage have all announced they could not back the tentative deal.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) too has made it clear that it could not support the agreement, complicating the premier’s task of getting it approved.

The party’s 10 lawmakers have propped up Johnson’s Conservative Party-led minority government since a national election in 2017, meaning he would need more support from opposition deputies in a vote on Saturday to get the deal ratified.

The pound, which hit a five-month high against the US dollar on news of the deal, then sunk back as traders heard Johnson’s Northern Irish allies torpedo the party by criticising the way the deal handles the Irish border.

The new divorce agreement comes in the form of 64 pages of tweaks to a previous deal that was 585 pages long.

As per the deal, Northern Ireland remains in the United Kingdom’s customs territory but it will also remain the entry point to the EU’s single market and the bloc’s procedures will apply to goods arriving there in this complex system.

There will be no customs checks on the island of Ireland — they will be done in ports. UK authorities will be in charge of applying the EU customs rules in Northern Ireland.

That marks a concession on the EU side, which has said earlier on in the negotiations that letting a third country collect its duties would be dereliction of sovereignty.

The uncertainty over parliament’s approval means that, two weeks before the latest date for Britain’s departure from the world’s largest trading bloc, the possible outcomes still range from an orderly departure to a chaotic exit or even another referendum that could reverse the entire endeavour.

As International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva highlighted, “When there is a will there is a deal... and hope is that the will holds in all quarters. So let’s see whether that happens.”