EU and UK say they have Brexit deal

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson | Andy Rain/EPA ‘Where there is a will, there is a #deal,’ Juncker posted on Twitter.  The EU and U.K. reached a new Brexit deal that will let Britain depart on orderly terms, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday. Word of an agreement…

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson | Andy Rain/EPA

‘Where there is a will, there is a #deal,’ Juncker posted on Twitter. 

The EU and U.K. reached a new Brexit deal that will let Britain depart on orderly terms, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday.

Word of an agreement came as EU leaders were en route to Brussels for a crucial European Council summit. Negotiators have worked intensively in recent days hoping to clinch a new divorce decree before Thursday’s summit, and it seemed they had met that deadline just under the wire.

Once the text of the deal is agreed by EU27 leaders, it must then be ratified by both the U.K. and European parliaments. As Theresa May found with a previous deal, that is by no means a straightforward process, particularly since the ruling Conservative party do not have a majority in the House of Commons. Time is now tight given Johnson’s self-imposed deadline to pull the U.K. out of the European Union by October 31.

A big obstacle had been how to redraw the so-called backstop provision on how to manage the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, in the event that an envisioned Brexit transition period ends on December 31, 2020 without a free-trade agreement in place.

The major breakthrough seemed to come when Johnson agreed to an EU demand for a single customs and regulatory border effectively placed in the Irish Sea, that would leave Northern Ireland following a “limited set” of EU customs rules related to goods but remaining in the U.K.’s customs territory. While that represented a clear rewriting of the deal the EU had previously negotiated with Theresa May, it was actually a return to a similar arrangement that May had proclaimed no British prime minister could accept.

In return, the EU27, notably with Ireland giving a green-light, agreed to a mechanism that would give the joint government in Northern Ireland the ability to vote to exit the new backstop arrangement.

The details of both the new customs arrangement, and the new consent mechanism are likely to be among the most scrutinized sections of a legal text that will be delivered to EU diplomats by midday Thursday.

However, a senior official from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party insisted the party does not support the agreement between London and Brussels, pointing to an earlier statement issued by party leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds.

“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 pair 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.”

A senior Downing Street official said: “This is a good deal for Nothern Ireland.”

“Where there is a will, there is a #deal,” Juncker posted on Twitter.

Johnson in his own post wrote: “We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control.”

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier thanked negotiators for their “tenacity and professionalism.”

EU and U.K. negotiators previously reached an accord on a Brexit divorce decree, but it was rejected three times by the British parliament, leading Theresa May to resign as prime minister.

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 #GetBrexitDone #TakeBackControl

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 17, 2019

This article has been updated with a response from the DUP.

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