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New Brexit deal may fail to persuade MPs at home

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Johnson and Barnier reach a provisional understanding

As a Brexit deal has been provisionally agreed upon between the UK Government and EU officials, major challenges await Prime Minister Boris Johnson at home.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s last-ditch proposition of a divorce deal with the EU was met with positive feedback from Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, on Thursday.

“This is a fair, a balanced agreement. It is testament to our commitment to finding solutions. It provides certainty where Brexit creates uncertainty,” Mr. Juncker said following his meeting with the UK premiere at the EU summit.

Under the proposed deal, the UK will still pay a £39 billion exit fee as well as continue to abide by EU trade rules until the end of 2020, and possibly longer, to allow businesses to adjust. Moreover, the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU, will be guaranteed.

The so-called Irish backstop will also be removed, which would align Northern Ireland to the EU single market, while keeping it a part of the UK's customs territory. Any future trade deals struck by the UK Government after Brexit will include Northern Ireland as well.

The Northern Ireland Assembly will be able to decide on whether to continue with the new scheme in a vote every four years.

Both Mr. Juncker and Mr. Johnson went on to urge their respective parliaments to back the deal.

However, even before the legal text has been written, critics are claiming that Mr. Johnson’s proposed deal is basically the same as the one submitted by former Prime Minister Theresa May last year, with the only major changes being made to the Northern Ireland proposals.

The Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) expressed doubt on the success of the proposal, saying they could not back it “as things stand”.

A vote in Parliament on the deal could be disastrous if the 10 DUP MPs persuade some Tory hardliners against Mr. Johnson’s plan.

Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, called on Parliament to reject the deal as it sounded “even worse” than what was negotiated by Theresa May.

The Liberal Democrat leader, Jo Swinson, also condemned Mr. Johnson’s deal as “bad for our economy, bad for our public services, and bad for our environment”.

“The next few days will set the direction of our country for generations, and I am more determined than ever to stop Brexit,” the pro-Remain MP said, adding that the “fight to stop Brexit is far from over.”

A serious point of contention in the proposed deal concerns the Northern Ireland-EU customs zone. A joint EU/UK committee will decide which goods are at risk of entering the single market and the UK will collect EU tariffs on them on behalf of the EU.

But Brexit Party leader, Nigel Farage, said the new deal would mean “we will not be making our own laws in our own country” and said the treaty “binds us in to other commitments”.

Boris Johnson is scheduled to make a statement to MPs on Saturday about the new Brexit agreement. Only after that statement, MPs will commence the debate over prospects of the new proposal. The debate is scheduled to last 90 minutes, at the end of which a vote will be held to either accept or reject the deal.

If rejected, Boris Johnson will be required by law under the Benn Act to request that the EU grant an extension to Brexit talks.

Mr. Johnson, however, may sabotage the Benn Act and send a second letter to the EU against granting such an extension.

This is while Jean-Claude Juncker said there would be no extension granted for further Brexit talks.

This means that both the EU and UK parliaments must either accept the last-minute deal or settle for a no-deal Brexit, which would be the worst of possible outcomes.

The hope of Britain’s Brexit now depends on Mr. Johnson trying to persuade key groups in Parliament to vote for his deal.

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