'Happy about the deal but I am sad about Brexit': Juncker

'Happy about the deal but I am sad about Brexit': Juncker
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, ahead of the opening sessions of the European Council summit at EU headquarters in Brussels. (Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

  • EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have announced a Brexit deal has been done;
  • The EU Commission says the agreement “fully protects the integrity of the EU's Single Market and Customs Union, and avoids any regulatory and customs checks at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland”.
  • Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says deal is "good for Ireland and Northern Ireland".
  • DUP opposition to the deal ‘still stands’, the party said, on three grounds - customs, consent and VAT;
  • MPs have approved a motion for the House of Commons to sit on Saturday October 19 to discuss a Brexit deal.

EU Commisison President Jean Claude Juncker has said "I am happy about the deal but I am sad about Brexit" as he and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered a press announcement this lunchtime.

Mr Johnson said the deal agreed was “reasonable” and “fair”.

“I do think this deal represents a very good deal for the EU and the UK,” he told reporters.

“I think it is a reasonable, fair outcome and reflected the large amount of work undertaken by both sides.”

The British Prime Minister said the agreement allowed all parts of the United Kingdom to leave the EU “whole and entire”.

He said: “It is testament to our commitment to finding solutions.

“It provides certainty where Brexit creates uncertainty.”

Mr Johnson added: “I agree very much with Jean-Claude about what he said about protecting the peace process on the island of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“Of course, for us in the UK it means we can deliver a real Brexit that achieves our objectives.

“It means the UK leaves whole and entire on October 31 and it means that Northern Ireland and every part of the UK can take part in not just free trade deals, offering our tariffs, exporting our goods around the world, but it also means we can take, together as a single United Kingdom, decisions about our future – our laws, our borders, our money and how we want to run the UK.

“Those decisions will be taken in the UK by elected representatives of the people in the UK.”

Leaving EU will be a 'golden age for the United Kingdom'

'Happy about the deal but I am sad about Brexit': Juncker

Commons Leader Jacob Rees Mogg said it is “not unduly onerous” to expect MPs to sit on Saturday to debate the Prime Minister’s new Brexit deal.

Laying a motion for a Saturday sitting, Mr Rees Mogg told MPs: “I’m sure that many honourable and right honourable members could think of other things to be doing on Saturday rather than coming here. But I admire the diligence of members of this House in actually accepting that the basic principle is a right one and, as I’ve said before, to meet three times in 70 years on a Saturday is not unduly onerous.”

Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts asked if the Government would publish impact assessments about the deal ahead of the debate on Saturday.

Responding, Mr Rees Mogg said: “There are any number of impact assessments that people have made.”

He added: “Let me give you my impact assessment. It will be a golden age for the United Kingdom when we are free of the heavy yoke of the European Union that has bowed us down for generations, that has made us less competitive, less efficient and higher cost.

“All of that will be gone and we will be singing Hallelujahs.

EU Brexit coordinator Verhofstadt: 'If Brexit has to happen, this is a balanced agreement'

Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, has said the Brexit deal announced today by Jean Claude Juncker and Boris Johnson is a "balanced agreement".

He said: “I regret #Brexit, but if it’s to happen, this is a balanced agreement. Let’s see if mr. Johnson can find a majority in the House of Commons. If so, we will scrutinize the deal in the @Europarl_EN. The ball is in the camp of the members of parliament on both sides of the channel.”

'Happy about the deal but I am sad about Brexit': Juncker

Meanwhile, Speaking On BBC, the UK’s Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage (pictured above), said: “Well it’s not just Brexit; I mean we’ve taken three and a half years to get to this point and if this was to be agreed we then enter into “here’s more negotiations for the prize of a free trade agreement”, which we already know we will not get unless we surrender our territorial fishing waters and we will not get unless we stay in regulatory alignment with the European union.”

He added: “Frankly I think we’ve probably just done the easy bit the last three and a half years; the next bit will be even harder. Look, it is a new EU treaty it binds us in to so many other commitments on foreign policy, military policy, a list as long as your arm.”

'Very difficult' to get the DUP on board

He then said he “frankly” thinks the deal should be rejected and “the best way out of this would be simply to have a clean break”.

Asked whether a no-deal Brexit is what he is advocating, Mr Farage said: “I would very much like us to leave on the 31st of October but I understand that the Benn Act has been passed and that makes it impossible but would I rather accept a new European treaty that is frankly very bad for us or would I prefer to have an extension and a general election? I would always go for the latter option.”

He added that the UK will not be able to “properly break free” of the EU if the country signs up to the deal.

He then added he thinks it will be “very difficult” to get the DUP on board given that “effectively they’ve been hived off, almost annexed out of the European union...There will be no friction-less trade between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.”

EARLIER:

Boris Johnson leaves the back of Downing Street, London, on his way to Brussels for the European Council Summit this morning. Picture:PA
Boris Johnson leaves the back of Downing Street, London, on his way to Brussels for the European Council Summit this morning. Picture:PA

A Brexit deal has been agreed with the EU, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said.

The British Prime Minister tweeted: “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, violent crime and our environment.”

The announcement came as Mr Johnson was heading for a crunch EU summit in Brussels and follows days of intense negotiations.

However, he is expected to face a tough task getting the agreement through Parliament.

With the Commons expected to sit on Saturday to discuss it – the first weekend session for 37 years – the DUP insisted it still could not yet back the Government’s Brexit plans.

The stance of the DUP is important because the party wields influence over some Tory Brexiteers.

Announcing the deal on Twitter, Mr Johnson said: “We will leave the EU’s Customs Union as one United Kingdom and be able to strike trade deals all around the world.

“This new deal ensures that we #TakeBackControl of our laws, borders, money and trade without disruption & establishes a new relationship with the EU based on free trade and friendly cooperation.

“This is a deal which allows us 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.

“This new deal takes back control. Under the previous negotiation, Brussels maintained ultimate control and could have forced Britain to accept EU laws and taxes for ever.

“We will leave the EU’s Customs Union as one United Kingdom and be able to strike trade deals all around the world.”

Mr Johnson added that the “anti-democratic” backstop had been abolished.

He tweeted:

“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.”

European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted: “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 testament to our commitment to find solutions. I recommend that #EUCO endorses this deal.”

A senior Government source told the PA news agency that the agreement would take Britain out of all EU laws and allow for free trade deals, with the whole UK participating in them.

The source said Northern Ireland would be in the UK customs territory “forever”, and that the so-called border backstop had been “abolished”.

Michel Barnier, the EU's Chief Brexit Negotiator, attends the European Council summit at EU headquarters in Brussels.(Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)
Michel Barnier, the EU's Chief Brexit Negotiator, attends the European Council summit at EU headquarters in Brussels.(Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire)

Speaking at a press conference, European Commission chief negotiator, Michel Barnier said: “Throughout these negotiations the EU and UK were fully committed to protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland.

“Discussions over the past days have at times been difficult, but have delivered and we have delivered together.

“There should be no surprises here, much of the final text can also be found in the agreement that was put forward a year ago.

“There are some new elements including on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“This agreement has been built together with the UK, that’s why I am confident it can be supported and ratified in time.”

Mr Barnier said the solution “rests on four main elements”: that NI will remain aligned to a limited set of EU rules, notably related to goods; NI will remain in the UK’s customs territory but will “remain an entry point” into the EU’s single market; an agreement to maintain the integrity of the single market and satisfy the UK’s legitimate wishes over VAT; Northern Ireland representatives will be able to decide “by simple majority” whether to continue applying union rules in Northern Ireland or not, every four years.

Mr Barnier said the “turning point” in negotiations followed a meeting on the Wirral last week between Messrs Varadkar and Johnson.

He said: “It was following that we were able to make headway.

“It was accepted there would be no customs checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We were trying to find an intelligent solution to the problems there.

“I could see there was mutual goodwill in wishing to find a solution to the most sensitive issues – ensuring the peace in Ireland.”

European Council President Donald Tusk
European Council President Donald Tusk

European Council President Donald Tusk told reporters on Thursday that a deal is always better than no deal.

“Deal is always better than no deal, but I am not happy because of the substance of this political fight,” he said.

“But, of course a deal is better than no deal.”

Mr Tusk was asked whether the deal was good for the people of Northern Ireland.

He replied: “I am quite sure the recommendation from the Commission side and also the positive assessment of Taoiseach Prime Minister Varadkar, this is for me a guarantee that for our citizens, I mean of Continent but also of Ireland, this deal is OK.

“Otherwise I would not have accepted.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was quick to dismiss the deal.

Speaking during a visit to Brussels, he said: “This is a day where the Prime Minister seems to have made a deal with the European Union which doesn’t give us the complete freedom of movement between Britain and Ireland because it creates a customs union border down the Irish Sea.

“As it stands we cannot support this deal.

“Also it is unclear whether it has the support of his allies in the DUP, or indeed many of his allies on his own backbenches.”

“From what we know, it seems the Prime Minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May’s, which was overwhelmingly rejected.”

Mr Corbyn said he does not “suspect” Saturday will present a chance to get a confirmatory referendum through Parliament.

Asked if he would back a second referendum on Saturday when speaking in Brussels, he told reporters: “It won’t come up on Saturday, I suspect.”

    The revised protocol on Northern Ireland contains four key elements, two of which are on regulations and customs:

    Regulations: Northern Ireland will remain aligned with Single Market regulations on goods. Checks and procedures on such goods will take place at ports and airports in Northern Ireland and not on the border. The UK authorities will therefore assume responsibility for applying the EU rules in Northern Ireland.

    Custom duties: Northern Ireland will remain a part of the UK’s customs territory, so it will be included in any future trade deals struck by the Government after Brexit. However, the region will also remain an entry point into the EU’s customs zone. UK authorities will apply UK tariffs to products entering Northern Ireland as long as they are not destined for onward transportation across the border. For goods at risk of entering the single market, the UK will collect EU tariffs on behalf of the bloc.

    The other key elements of the Northern Ireland protocol are on VAT and consent:

    VAT: EU rules on Value Added Tax and excise duties will apply in Northern Ireland, with the UK responsible for their collection. However, revenues derived will be retained by the UK.

    The UK will also be able to apply VAT exemptions and reduced rates in Northern Ireland that are applied in Ireland.

    Consent: Stormont Assembly members will vote whether to continue to apply the arrangements after an initial four-year period following them coming into effect at the start of 2021.

    Significantly, that vote will be conducted on a simple majority head count at Stormont and will not require the support of a majority of unionists and a majority of nationalists under the contentious “petition of concern” mechanism. This means the DUP will not have the chance to exercise a veto.

    If the vote is carried, the arrangements will be extended for another four years.

    However, if it transpires that a majority of unionists and a majority of nationalists do ultimately vote in favour of the move, then the extension period will be for eight years.

    If members vote to come out of the EU arrangements there would be a two-year cooling off period before that happened.

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