Loading articles...

UK, EU reach tentative Brexit deal; still needs ratification

Last Updated Oct 17, 2019 at 5:25 am PDT

Protester flags fly opposite the Houses of Parliament in London on April 11, 2019. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Frank Augstein
Summary

The UK and the EU have finally reached a new tentative Brexit deal

Boris Johnson now faces the task of selling the accord to his parliament, including allies in Northern Ireland

Johnson tweeted the two sides had struck a “great new deal” and urged U.K. lawmakers to ratify it in a special session

BRUSSELS — Britain and the European Union finally reached a new tentative Brexit deal on Thursday, hoping to escape the acrimony, divisions and frustration of their three-year divorce battle. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson now faces the Herculean task of selling the accord to his recalcitrant parliament — including his allies in Northern Ireland.

Only hours before Brussels hosted a summit of the bloc’s 28 national leaders, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted: “We have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions.”

Johnson tweeted that the two sides had struck a “great new deal” and urged U.K. lawmakers to ratify it in a special session being held Saturday — only the first time since 1982 that British lawmakers have been at work on that day.

“This is a deal which allows us to get Brexit done and leave the EU in two weeks’ time,” Johnson tweeted.

The pound hit a five-month high against the U.S. dollar on the news.

Yet immediately complicating matters was Johnson’s Northern Irish government allies, which didn’t waste a minute before announcing they could not back the tentative Brexit deal because of the way it handled the Irish border.

Johnson, however, needs all the support he can get to push any Brexit deal past a deeply divided Parliament and that knowledge tempered jubilation at the EU summit. The U.K. Parliament already rejected a previous Brexit deal crafted by former British Prime Minister Theresa May three times.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has been through this scenario before.

“We have this history. That is why my mountaineering temperament keeps me careful and cautious,” said Barnier, who hails from the French Alps and organized the 1992 Olympic Winter Games there.

Barnier was in the room when the leaders called each other and said Johnson “told President Juncker this morning that he believed he was able to get the deal approved,” adding Johnson said he was “confident about his capacity to convince a majority.”

The agreement must still be formally approved by the bloc and ratified by the European Parliament.

The key hurdle to a Brexit deal was finding a way to keep goods and people flowing freely across the border between EU member Ireland and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland after Brexit. That invisible, open border has underpinned the region’s peace accord and allowed the economies of both Ireland and Northern Ireland to grow.