European Commission president Jean-Claude Junker announced via twitter “Where there is a will, there is a deal” clarifying reports that the EU had reached a new deal with the UK abolishing the backstop.
The deal entails Northern Ireland been part of the UK's customs territory but remaining “aligned to a limited set of EU rules” for goods. Checks and procedures will take place at points-of-entry like ports and airports and not at a land border. Goods coming from the UK will not be subject to duties unless they are moved into the EU. Responsibility for collecting EU VAT and duties falls on the UK. After the four year transition period the Stormont assembly will vote on wither such rules should remain in place. Controversially by simple majority vote, eliminating the ability to veto.
The deal has received unanimous support from EU leaders with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar described the deal as a “good agreement” that “allows the UK to leave [the EU] in an orderly fashion.” The Tanasite (Minister for Foreign Affairs) Simon Coveny has said this new deal “protects the core Irish interest.” However the UK have been less favourable with oppositions like Labour’s leader Jeremy Corbyn stated the deal is “even worse than Theresa May’s.” In Northern Ireland the DUP have stated they won’t support the deal, raising concerns over VAT and custom arrangements.
MP’s will vote on this deal, Saturday. (October 19) Article 50’s mandate means the UK will exit by default from the EU on October 31. Meaning MP’s are voting ‘Deal or no Deal’. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has the backing of his minority government, but indications show major opposition parties including Labour, DUP, SNP, LibDems and the Brexit party will vote against the deal. Doing so puts Mr. Johnson in a difficult position because he is legally obliged under the Benn Act to seek an extension to avoid a no-deal Brexit, something the EU have ruled out saying “if we have a deal, we have a deal. There is no need for prolongation.”
The Commons’ Brexit Committee Chair has stated that he believes the EU would be open to an extension in the event of a confirmatory referendum. Therefore one could argue that should the UK Government loose Saturday’s vote there are two likely scenarios; The UK leave by default with no deal or an extension is made long enough to allow for a referendum on a deal or no deal. But as we have learnt in the last three years, it is impossible to predict whats next for Brexit until the eleventh hour.