More than three years after Britons voted in a referendum to leave the EU, Britain finally clinched an eleventh-hour Brexit deal with the EU on Thursday, but Prime Minister Boris Johnson still faces a knife-edge vote in parliament to get it approved.
“Where there is a will there is a deal – we have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is a testament to our commitment to find solutions,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said in a tweet a few hours before the start of an EU summit in Brussels.
He said he would recommend that leaders of the other 27 member states approve the deal.
“I believe it is high time to complete the divorce process and move on, as swiftly as possible, to the negotiation on the European Union’s future partnership with the United Kingdom,” Juncker said in a letter.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was due to meet the 27 at the summit later on Thursday, declared: “we have a great new Brexit deal”.
According to Reuters, Johnson is hoping to get approval for the agreement in a vote at an extraordinary session of the British parliament on Saturday, to pave the way for an orderly departure on Oct. 31.
However, the Northern Irish party that Johnson needs to help ratify any agreement has refused to support the deal that was hammered out over weeks of negotiations.
The head of the main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said in Brussels he was “unhappy” with the deal and would vote against it. Lawmakers in his party said they had been told to vote for another referendum on Saturday.
“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 (value-added tax),” DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds said in a statement.
“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.”
The European Commission said it wanted a deal while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said one was still possible. Merkel said more work was needed on Northern Ireland customs and that, if necessary, EU leaders could meet again to discuss Brexit.
It is unclear what Brexit will ultimately mean for the United Kingdom and the European project – built on the ruins of World War Two as a way to integrate economic power and thus end centuries of European bloodshed, CNBC reported