UPDATES WITH DETAILS FROM NEW DEAL, PRESS CONFERENCE; REVISED DECK; EDITS THROUGHOUT
By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LONDON (AA) - Britain and the EU on Thursday said they reached a new Brexit deal ahead of the EU Council summit starting today.
“Where there is a will, there is a deal - we have one!” Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, said on Twitter.
“It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions. I recommend that EUCO [Commission] endorses this deal,” he wrote.
Confirming the agreement, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also took to Twitter.
“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 [health service], violent crime, and our environment,” he wrote from Brussels, the EU capital.
Johnson will bring the deal back to the British parliament on Saturday for a meaningful vote. “Let’s get Brexit done and lead this country forward,” Johnson later tweeted.
Referring to the contentious Irish border issue, Johnson said “the anti-democratic backstop” has been “abolished.”
“The people of Northern Ireland will be in charge of the laws that they live by, and -- unlike the backstop -- will have the right to end the special arrangement if they so choose,” Johnson added.
He underlined that the deal would allow the government to get Brexit done and “leave the EU in two weeks’ time, so we can then focus on the people’s priorities and bring the country back together again.”
“I am confident [the agreement] can be supported and ratified in the time between now and 31 October,” Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, told a press conference.
Juncker and Johnson later re-confirmed the agreed deal at a joint press conference in Brussels.
Juncker said he and Johnson would present the deal to the other EU leaders in a meeting this evening.
The deal protects the Irish Good Friday agreement of 1998 and avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland, Juncker said.
The deal means that “we can deliver a real Brexit that achieves our objectives,” said Johnson.
- New deal
The new deal is similar to one reached by Theresa May, Johnson’s predecessor, with some changes to the problematic “backstop” issue.
Under the deal, the U.K. would continue with the EU rules through the end of 2020, pay a divorce bill of £39 billion ($50 billion), and U.K. and EU citizens’ rights would be protected.
However, Northern Ireland would remain in the EU’s customs zone for a period of 4 years, a period which could be ended or extended by the decision of the local assembly every four years.
The new deal would create a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K. in the Irish Sea, but a hard border on the island of Ireland would be avoided.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said they would not vote for the new deal, branding it “worse” than May’s deal, which was repeatedly rejected by the House of Commons.
He told Sky News that Labour is “not happy” with the deal and they would not vote for it as it stands.
In Brussels, Scotland’s First Minister and ruling SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon minced no words on her opposition.
“For Scotland, this deal would take us out of EU, single market and customs union -- all against our will. It would leave us as only part of the U.K. being taken out without consent and with no say on future relationship,” she wrote on Twitter.
“The SNP will not vote for that,” said.
Liberal Democrats’ leader Jo Swinson said she is determined to give the British public a say on Brexit.
“The next few days will shape the future of our country for generations. I am more determined than ever to stop Brexit and give the public the final say in a People’s Vote,” Swinson wrote on Twitter.
Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, the Conservative government’s de facto partner, earlier said they would not support the deal “as it stands.”
The U.K. is set to leave the bloc on Oct. 31 if the deal is ratified by the U.K. parliament and by the parliaments of all 27 member states by the deadline.