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Johnson confident he can convince MPs to back ultimate Brexit deal

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures during a news conference with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker after agreeing on the Brexit deal, at the sidelines of the European Union leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium October 17, 2019.
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson gestures during a news conference with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker after agreeing on the Brexit deal, at the sidelines of the European Union leaders summit, in Brussels, Belgium October 17, 2019. Reuters

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces an uphill battle getting the latest version of a Brexit deal through the parliament, despite a endorsement by European Union leaders on Thursday.

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Johnson insists he is "very confident" MPs will back the deal, but some of his own allies in the House of Commons were quick to warn they would not support it when it goes to a vote in a special sitting on Saturday.

He urged MPs "to come together to get Brexit done, to get this excellent deal over the line and to deliver Brexit without any more delay."

The compromise reached on Thursday is a personal victory for Johnson, who was told repeatedly by EU leaders that they were not open to reworking a deal initially inked last year.

Take back control

Johnson, a leader of the "leave" campaign in 2016 said he had secured a "great new deal that takes back control".

However, if the deal is defeated, Johnson will be legally obliged to ask EU leaders to postpone Brexit for a third time breaking his vow to lead Britain out on October 31.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned such a rejection would create an "extremely complicated situation."

"We have a deal, and this deal means there is no need for any kind of prolongation," he told reporters, although the decision will be for EU leaders.

The draft agreement was forged after weeks of tense negotiations focused on altering arrangements to keep open the border between British Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland.

All sides agree they do not want infrastructure on the frontier, to avoid exacerbating tensions over Britain's control of Northern Ireland that caused decades of deadly violence up until the 1990s.

What's in the deal?

European Union negotiator Michel Barnier, who has been asked to lead the bloc's talks with London on their future post-Brexit relationship, outlined the four main points of the deal at a press conference on Thursday.

  • The United Kingdom will stay as a single customs territory, allowing it to strike international trade deals, but will require London to levy EU tariffs on certain goods passing through Northern Ireland.
     
  • Northern Ireland would also follow the EU's rules on agricultural, food and industrial goods.
     
  • Some customs and tax checks will exist between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.
     
  • Northern Ireland's regional assembly will be given a vote every four years on whether to maintain the arrangements.

DUP, Scotland and opposition against the deal

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which props up Johnson's Conservatives, said it was "unable to support these proposals" and warned the plans "undermine the integrity of the union."

The main opposition Labour, Scottish National and Liberal Democrat parties also spoke out against it.

"The deal he's proposed is heading Britain in the direction of a deregulated society and a sell-off of national assets to American corporations," Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said, suggesting a second referendum on any deal should be held.

Their response sent the pound sinking again after it had earlier risen to five-month peaks on news of the deal.

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