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Westlake Legal Group > Northern Ireland

WATCH: Varadkar hails “good agreement”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

WATCH: Varadkar hails “good agreement”

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Boris Johnson Has a Brexit Deal. Now He Needs Parliament’s Support.

Westlake Legal Group 17brexit1-sub-facebookJumbo Boris Johnson Has a Brexit Deal. Now He Needs Parliament’s Support. Politics and Government Northern Ireland Johnson, Boris Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) Great Britain European Union Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) Brussels (Belgium)

BRUSSELS — Britain and the European Union on Thursday agreed on the draft text of a Brexit deal, setting up a fateful showdown in the British Parliament on Saturday, where it was not clear that Prime Minister Boris Johnson could marshal the votes to nail down his plan after three anguished and politically damaging years of debate.

But Mr. Johnson may already be thinking beyond whether Parliament approves his plan. Even if he loses, analysts say, he may call for a general election, hoping voters will rally behind him and deliver him a strong majority.

However it comes out, it all suggests a recipe for continued political tumult over at least the next weeks and months.

The statement argued that it would hurt Northern Ireland’s economy and undermine the integrity of the Union. The 1998 agreement, also known as the Good Friday Agreement, halted deadly sectarian violence and established a truce with the British government.

The opposition Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, urged members of Parliament to reject the deal, saying, “It seems the prime minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May’s.”

But Prime Minister Leo Varadkar of Ireland backed the deal, writing on Twitter that the draft agreement was “good” for Ireland and Northern Ireland. “No hard border. All-island and East-West economy can continue thrive. Protects Single Market & our place in it,” he added.

Mr. Johnson was ebullient on Thursday in a news conference alongside Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president. “This deal represents a very good deal both for the E.U. and for the U.K.,” he said. “And it’s a reasonable fair outcome.”

For his part, Mr. Juncker said: “I’m happy about the deal, but I’m sad about Brexit.”

Mr. Johnson appears to be betting that he can cobble together enough votes from lawmakers who are fed up with the endless wrangling and may view his deal, however imperfect, as better than any alternative.

It is a breathtaking gamble by a buccaneering leader who has already upended Britain’s political establishment in his quest to take Britain out of the European Union — shutting down Parliament for several weeks, purging rebels in his Conservative Party and drawing a rare rebuke from Britain’s Supreme Court.

Mr. Johnson’s agreement also hinges on winning the approval of the leaders of the 27 other European Union members, who gathered in Brussels on Thursday for a two-day summit meeting. That seemed simpler, given the significant concessions that Britain made in days of frantic negotiations, mainly over how to treat Northern Ireland.

“We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control,” Mr. Johnson said earlier Thursday as he prepared to fly to Brussels. He assured European leaders that he would be able to win approval for it in Parliament.

Mr. Juncker praised the draft deal as a “fair and balanced agreement for the E.U. and the U.K.,” and expressed confidence that it would pass muster with the leaders.

Mr. Johnson may also be gambling that the European Union, anxious to wash its hands of Brexit, will refuse to give Britain another extension, confronting Parliament with the difficult choice of embracing this deal or crashing out of Europe on Oct. 31 with no deal at all — a scenario that experts have warned would lead to chaos at the border, economic hardship for many and civil unrest in Northern Ireland and possibly elsewhere.

Alternatively, if he is defeated in a Parliament vote expected on Saturday, Mr. Johnson is likely to renew his call for a general election, arguing that he did everything he could to leave by Oct. 31 and that should the voters back him.

There are other scenarios, including a second referendum on Britain’s European Union membership, which was gaining support this week, and a Conservative election flop that could topple Mr. Johnson and possibly hand control to Mr. Corbyn, the Labour leader.

But nobody really knows how things will pan out. “We have one step forward, in that we’re talking about something substantive,” said Sam Lowe, a senior research fellow at the Center for European Reform, a research group in London. “But we still really have no idea where this is all going to land.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, would leave the European Union’s single market and join a separate customs union with Britain. But it would remain closely aligned with a maze of European rules and regulations, which would allow seamless trading to continue with Ireland, a member of the European Union.

The deal that Mr. Johnson struck is not radically different from a proposal Europe first made to Britain in early 2018, although that deal would have kept Northern Ireland legally part of the European customs union. Mr. Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, rejected that proposal, saying that it threatened the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom and that “no U.K. prime minister could ever agree to it.”

At the time, Mrs. May was hemmed in by the Democratic Unionists, who propped up her Conservative-led minority government and exerted a strong influence over the hard-line, pro-Brexit faction of the Conservative Party. The party rejected any deal that distinguished Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom, which it saw as a first step toward Irish unification.

Mr. Johnson, an outspoken proponent of leaving the European Union, somewhat diluted that influence, having earned the trust of hard-liners in his party. Yet, in the process of building that trust, he vowed to leave Europe by Oct. 31, even without a deal. That set off a rebellion in his own party and a vote by Parliament to force him to ask for an extension if he did not produce a deal.

Facing that prospect, Mr. Johnson proved to be an energetic negotiator, willing to make compromises where necessary. Britain moved closer to Europe’s insistence that there be no hard Irish border, offering a flurry of proposals about how to allow near-frictionless trade between two jurisdictions.

But Mr. Johnson insisted that Northern Ireland remain legally part of a British customs union, which he viewed as critical to keeping the support of the D.U.P. As his envoys haggled over terms in Brussels, Mr. Johnson met with a parade of unionists and other skeptics.

Hopes for a deal surged early this week, in part because there was little public dissent from the Democratic Unionists. A hard-line Brexit group in the Conservative Party, the European Research Group, voiced cautious support for Mr. Johnson’s plan. But as the language in the draft text became public, the Democratic Unionists quickly broke with Mr. Johnson.

“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,” the party’s leaders said on Thursday in a statement, referring to the value-added tax.

It followed that up with another, stronger statement, claiming the draft agreement “drives a coach and horses through the professed sanctity” of the Good Friday peace accord and would hurt the region’s and undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom.

With approval from the European Union reasonably sure, the attention was thus shifting to the British Parliament, which is expected to vote on the deal on Saturday.

Mr. Lowe said that Mr. Johnson faced a difficult, but not impossible, task in getting his plan through, and that he could even gain by losing. “I think he could lose, in which case this will all be about positioning himself for a general election,” Mr. Lowe said. of the prime minister.

Without the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, Mr. Johnson will struggle to secure Parliament’s approval. The last time Mrs. May put her proposal to lawmakers, she lost by 58 votes.

That was a different deal, and many of the hard-line Brexit supporters who rebelled prefer Mr. Johnson’s blueprint. They also trust Mr. Johnson more to steer the next phase of negotiations, focusing on a trade deal, and to secure much looser ties to the bloc.

Mr. Johnson will also try to persuade Labour lawmakers who represent areas that voted in 2016 to leave the European Union to defy their party and support his plan.

But he might still fall short without the D.U.P. Ominously for the prime minister, the leader of the hard-line European Research Group, Steve Baker, said on Thursday that he did not see how it could support the deal if Mr. Johnson failed to secure the backing of the Democratic Unionists.

Mr. Johnson’s situation would be strengthened if European Union leaders made it clear that they would not agree to a further delay if Parliament rejects this plan. That would effectively force lawmakers to choose among the new blueprint, a potentially disastrous rupture without a deal or a complete revocation of Brexit.

But that would be a big step for European leaders, who have so far been anxious to avoid giving any impression that they are pushing the British out of the bloc.

Matina Stevis-Gridneff contributed reporting from Brussels, and Anna Schaverien from London.

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Brexit Live Updates: E.U. and U.K. Come to an Agreement

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_162846636_c8087e13-43fa-4607-aca6-709e177763a1-articleLarge Brexit Live Updates: E.U. and U.K. Come to an Agreement Politics and Government Northern Ireland Johnson, Boris International Trade and World Market Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) Great Britain European Union Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) British Pound (Currency)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain, left, and the European Commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, at a news conference in the European Union’s headquarters in Brussels on Thursday.CreditFrancisco Seco/Associated Press

Britain and the European Union announced on Thursday that an agreement on the draft text of a Brexit deal had been reached, a last-minute breakthrough for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he works to map out Britain’s departure from the bloc.

Writing on Twitter, Mr. Johnson called the agreement a “great new deal that takes back control,” and said that Parliament would vote on the deal on Saturday.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission’s president, confirmed that a deal had been reached and noted that a revised arrangement on Northern Ireland was part of the agreement.

Writing on Twitter, Ireland’s prime minister, Leo Varadkar, called the agreement a “unique solution” for Northern Ireland that respects its “unique history and geography.”

Ireland’s approval has been a key element in securing European agreement on any deal and ensuring that there will not be a hard border between the Republic of Ireland, which is a member of the European Union, and Northern Ireland which is a part of the United Kingdom.

During a joint news conference with Mr. Johnson in Brussels later in the day, Mr. Juncker said that after much hard work they had reached a “fair, balanced agreement” that “provided certainty where Brexit provide uncertainty.”

Mr. Johnson also had kind words for his European partners, saying that the agreement represented a very good deal for both Britain and the European Union. He did not address questions about how he would gather the needed support from fellow lawmakers at home to get the deal through Parliament.

Mr. Johnson said the agreement would result in “a real Brexit that achieves our objective,” and vowed that “the U.K. leaves whole and entire on Oct. 31.”

With a roomful of reporters eager to ask the two leaders questions, Mr. Juncker silenced them before offering a parting thought: “I am happy about the deal, but I am sad about Brexit.”

Mr. Johnson may have struck a deal with Brussels, but in doing so he appears to have turned his back on a group of 10 lawmakers from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, who said on Thursday that they did not support the agreement. The party has been a crucial ally in the British Parliament, helping the Conservatives to remain in government despite not holding a majority.

The question now is whether Mr. Johnson can persuade those lawmakers to support his deal before Saturday — or whether he can get it through a fractious Parliament without them.

Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, laid out what he saw as the most important elements of the deal in an address to the news media shortly after the announcement.

In the deal, Northern Ireland would remain aligned to a “limited set of E.U. rules, notably related to goods,” he said. As a result, all procedures on goods will take place within the United Kingdom, and not between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The British authorities would be in charge of carrying out the controls.

Mr. Barnier added that to “square the circle” on the question of customs duties, negotiators had decided that the British authorities would apply tariffs “on products coming from third countries, so long as those goods entering Northern Ireland are not at risk” of entering Europe’s single market.

Read the Draft Withdrawal Agreement

The European Commission released a copy of the draft withdrawal agreement shortly after the deal was announced.


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Westlake Legal Group thumbnail Brexit Live Updates: E.U. and U.K. Come to an Agreement Politics and Government Northern Ireland Johnson, Boris International Trade and World Market Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) Great Britain European Union Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) British Pound (Currency)

For goods traded into the European Union’s single market — including those traded across the border into Ireland, a member of the bloc — Mr. Barnier said that the British authorities would be responsible for imposing European Union tariffs.

Mr. Barnier also said that four years after the protocol begins, Northern Ireland’s legislature — which has been dissolved since January 2017 amid sectarian disagreements — would be able to decide by a simple majority whether to continue applying the rules.

The Northern-Ireland based Democratic Unionist Party presented a stumbling block to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s deal for Britain’s withdrawal, announcing its opposition just hours before he was set to travel to Brussels for a European Union summit meeting.

In an early-morning statement on Thursday, the party said that it would continue to work with the government toward a “sensible deal,” but that it could not support the current proposal because of the tax arrangements involved.

“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,” a statement from the party said, referring to the value-added tax.

After the announcement of the deal, the D.U.P. said it still did not support the agreement — and said it “drives a coach and horses through the professed sanctity of the Belfast Agreement,” also known as the Good Friday Agreement, which in 1998 laid out the framework for peace in Northern Ireland.

The D.U.P. said the Brexit deal was not in Northern Ireland’s long-term interest, and that it would hurt Northern Ireland’s economy and undermine the integrity of the United Kingdom.

The Conservative Party has relied on the Democratic Unionists to remain in government since it lost its majority in a 2017 election, and their support for a Brexit deal is thought to be crucial for Mr. Johnson to get his deal through Parliament.

D.U.P. lawmakers have long sought a veto on post-Brexit trading rules, seeing that provision as the only way to ensure that the territory does not diverge from the rest of the United Kingdom — but Mr. Johnson’s deal does not provide one.

Opposition from the Northern Irish lawmakers could also spell trouble for Mr. Johnson in winning the support of staunch Brexit supporters who have said that they would support a deal only if the D.U.P. did as well. But some of those Brexit supporters hinted on Thursday that they would be willing to back a deal even without the D.U.P. onboard.

Britain’s opposition Labour Party slammed the proposed deal and said it wanted to put the agreement to a public vote, giving voters a chance to support either leaving the European Union on Mr. Johnson’s terms or abandoning Brexit altogether.

It was among the strongest endorsements yet from Labour of a second Brexit referendum, and a signal that the party would back remaining in the European Union in a public vote on Mr. Johnson’s deal.

Labour said it would attach an amendment to Mr. Johnson’s deal in Parliament that would allow the deal to pass only on the condition that it is backed by a majority of voters in a referendum.

Previous attempts in Parliament to make way for a second public vote on Brexit have failed, and it was not clear that pro-referendum lawmakers would have enough support this time either.

Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, called Mr. Johnson’s proposal a “sell-out deal” and said it was worse than the deal negotiated by former Prime Minister Theresa May. “The best way to get Brexit sorted is to give the people the final say in a public vote,” he said

First came the tweets: A deal with the European Union had been reached. Within minutes, the pound surged against the dollar — at one point trading at nearly $1.30.

But its value headed downward as word of the Democratic Unionist Party’s opposition to the agreement spread, and by the afternoon the pound’s value had fallen below where it started the day.

The New York Times has looked at why the pound’s value has been a barometer for Brexit talks over the past three years.





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Westlake Legal Group gbp-chart-1050 Brexit Live Updates: E.U. and U.K. Come to an Agreement Politics and Government Northern Ireland Johnson, Boris International Trade and World Market Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) Great Britain European Union Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) British Pound (Currency)

$1.48 Britain votes to leave the European Union by a narrow margin.

$1.40 E.U. and British negotiators agree on terms for a smooth transition.

$1.45

$1.29 Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain may cut important economic ties with the E.U.

$1.32 A series of resignations rattles Mrs. May’s cabinet.

$1.29 Mrs. May’s party loses loses its majority in Parliament.

1.40

$1.26 Mrs. May postpones the first vote on Brexit deal.

$1.27 Mrs. May says she will step down, reviving fears of a no-deal Brexit.

$1.24 Departure process officially begins, starting a two-year deadline.

1.35

1.30

1.25

$1.25

The British pound in dollars

1.20

Jul ’16

Oct ’16

Jan ’17

Apr ’17

Jul ’17

Oct ’17

Jan ’18

Apr ’18

Jul ’18

Oct ’18

Jan ’19

Apr ’19

Jul ’19

Westlake Legal Group gbp-chart-600 Brexit Live Updates: E.U. and U.K. Come to an Agreement Politics and Government Northern Ireland Johnson, Boris International Trade and World Market Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) Great Britain European Union Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) British Pound (Currency)

$1.48 Britain votes to leave the European Union by a narrow margin.

$1.40 E.U. and British negotiators agree on terms for a smooth transiton.

$1.29 Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain may cut important economic ties with the E.U.

$1.32 A series of resignations rattles Mrs. May’s cabinet.

$1.45

$1.26 Mrs. May postpones the first vote on Brexit deal.

1.40

$1.29 Mrs. May’s party loses loses its majority in Parliament.

$1.27 Mrs. May says she will step down, reviving fears of a no-deal Brexit.

1.35

$1.24 Departure process officially begins, starting a two-year deadline.

1.30

1.25

$1.25

The British pound in dollars

1.20

Jul ’16

Jan ’17

Jul ’17

Jan ’18

Jul ’18

Jan ’19

Jul ’19

Westlake Legal Group gbp-chart-375 Brexit Live Updates: E.U. and U.K. Come to an Agreement Politics and Government Northern Ireland Johnson, Boris International Trade and World Market Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) Great Britain European Union Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) British Pound (Currency)

1.25

1.40

$1.20

1.30

1.35

1.45

Jul ’16

$1.48 Britain votes to leave the European Union by a narrow margin.

Oct ’16

$1.29 Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain may cut important economic ties with the E.U.

Jan ’17

$1.24 Departure process officially begins, starting a two-year deadline.

Apr ’17

$1.29 Mrs. May’s party loses loses its majority in Parliament.

Jul ’17

Oct ’17

$1.40 E.U. and British negotiators agree on terms for smooth transition.

Jan ’18

The British pound

in dollars

Apr ’18

Jul ’18

$1.32 A series of resignations rattles Mrs. May’s cabinet.

Oct ’18

$1.26 Mrs. May postpones the first vote on Brexit deal.

Jan ’19

Apr ’19

$1.27 Mrs. May says she will step down, reviving fears of a no-deal Brexit.

Jul ’19

$1.25

Westlake Legal Group gbp-chart-300 Brexit Live Updates: E.U. and U.K. Come to an Agreement Politics and Government Northern Ireland Johnson, Boris International Trade and World Market Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) Great Britain European Union Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) British Pound (Currency)

1.25

1.40

$1.20

1.30

1.35

1.45

Jul ’16

$1.48 Britain votes to leave the European Union by a narrow margin.

Oct ’16

$1.29 Prime Minister Theresa May says Britain may cut important economic ties with the E.U.

Jan ’17

$1.24 Departure process officially begins, starting a two-year deadline.

Apr ’17

$1.29 Mrs. May’s party loses loses its majority in Parliament.

Jul ’17

Oct ’17

$1.40 E.U. and British negotiators agree on terms for smooth transition.

Jan ’18

The British pound

in dollars

Apr ’18

Jul ’18

$1.32 A series of resignations rattles Mrs. May’s cabinet.

Oct ’18

$1.26 Mrs. May postpones the first vote on Brexit deal.

Jan ’19

Apr ’19

$1.27 Mrs. May says she will step down, reviving fears of a no-deal Brexit.

Jul ’19

$1.25


Source: Refinitiv

By The New York Times

Business groups reacted to the news of a draft deal with a mix of relief that it might prevent Britain from crashing out of the bloc without a plan, and caution over potential long-term consequences.

Many industries, including car manufacturers and aerospace companies, have warned that leaving the European Union without preserving smooth and favorable trade terms would damage their operations in Britain.

For small businesses owners, who have long voiced worries about supply shortages and the loss of markets in Europe, a deal that includes a transition period would at least delay the risk of such dangers.

“Many small businesses will be relieved that there now appears to be a credible pathway toward securing a deal that avoids a chaotic no-deal on 31 October,” Mike Cherry, the national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said in a statement on Thursday.

At the same time, business groups warned against rushing into a poorly thought-through deal that could have damage the economy in the long term.

“If a passable deal is in touching distance, then politicians on all sides should be pragmatic about giving us the time to get there,” Jonathan Geldart, the director general of the Institute of Directors, a British business group, said in a statement.

Reporting was contributed by Mark Landler, Stephen Castle, Ben Mueller, Marc Santora, Matina Stevis-Gridneff, Megan Specia, Ceylan Yeginsu, Stanley Reed and Anna Schaverien.

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What Is the D.U.P., and How Might It Scupper Brexit?

Westlake Legal Group 17dup3-facebookJumbo What Is the D.U.P., and How Might It Scupper Brexit? Sinn Fein Politics and Government Northern Ireland Johnson, Boris ireland Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) Foster, Arlene (1970- ) Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) Conservative Party (Great Britain)

LONDON — After years of debate, false starts and just plain confusion, the news that Britain had reached a deal to leave the European Union seemed like a moment for a weary nation to exhale.

But nearly as soon as Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced news of the deal, there was a problem.

The Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland, a group of lawmakers whose support has long been viewed as essential to win passage of any Brexit deal, said it could not back the draft agreement.

The opposition of the Northern Irish lawmakers raised questions about whether Mr. Johnson thought he had enough votes without them to push the plan through Parliament in a special session scheduled for Saturday.

For those not steeped in every twist and turn of the seemingly endless Brexit drama, it raised a more basic question: How could a party that holds only 10 seats out of 650 in the British Parliament wield such influence over Brexit?

The Democratic Unionist Party was founded in 1971 as a radical, hard-line Protestant political faction during the Troubles, the 30-year sectarian conflict that began in 1968.

The conflict was mainly fought between Catholics who wanted a republic that encompassed all of Ireland and Protestants determined to keep Northern Ireland in the United Kingdom.

At least 3,532 people, most of them civilians, lost their lives to paramilitary killings and terrorist bombings, with the violence at times spilling over into England and the Republic of Ireland.

The D.U.P.’s founder, the Rev. Ian Paisley, was an evangelical preacher whose virulently sectarian speeches, and sometimes violent demonstrations, helped stoke interfaith tensions in the early years of the Troubles.

Years later, the party was a main beneficiary of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which ended the Troubles. The deal stipulated that the largest Protestant and Catholic parties should share power in Northern Ireland. But it soon became apparent that this was pushing voters from both sides to the political extremes.

By 2017, voters had largely abandoned moderate parties and the Democratic Unionists took the last Westminster seats held by the rival Ulster Unionists. At the same time, Sinn Fein, the political wing of the disbanded Irish Republican Army, eclipsed more moderate nationalist parties.

Sinn Fein, which does not consider itself British and has formally renounced any involvement in Westminster politics, refuses to vote in the House of Commons, so has not played a role in the Brexit fight.

When Boris Johnson’s predecessor as prime minister, Theresa May, was riding high in the opinion polls in 2017, she decided to call an election to try to cement a strong majority to get her Brexit plan through Parliament. As it happened, she fared poorly, actually lost ground and became dependent on the D.U.P.’s 10 votes to stay in power.

That gave the unionist party an outsize role in the Brexit negotiations, which it used to enforce its bedrock position rejecting any plan that would divide Northern Ireland from the rest of Britain.

“The red line is blood red,” Arlene Foster, the party leader, said last fall as discussion swirled about a possible compromise.

“There cannot be a border down the Irish Sea, a differential between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.,” she told the BBC at the time.

So it was not a surprise that the party put out a statement Thursday morning warning that “as things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues.”

In addition to providing the Conservative government with critical votes in Parliament, the D.U.P. also acts as a guidepost for many hard-line supporters of Brexit, who have said that they will never vote for a deal that does not also have the Northern Irish party’s support.

In the statement early Thursday, before a deal had been reached, the D.U.P. seemed to leave a door open for concessions, saying it would continue to work with the government to find a solution.

But as the day wore on, they denounced the deal in even more strident terms.

“We have been consistent that we will only ever consider supporting arrangements that are in Northern Ireland’s long-term economic and constitutional interests and protect the integrity of the union,” the party said, referring to Northern Ireland’s ties to rest of the United Kingdom.

“These proposals are not, in our view, beneficial to the economic well-being of Northern Ireland and they undermine the integrity of the union,” the party added.

It was far from clear how Mr. Johnson would convince them to change their minds.

He has until Saturday.

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U.K. and E.U. Agree on Brexit Draft Deal, but Hurdles Remain

Westlake Legal Group 17brexit-sub-facebookJumbo U.K. and E.U. Agree on Brexit Draft Deal, but Hurdles Remain Politics and Government Northern Ireland Johnson, Boris Great Britain Withdrawal from EU (Brexit) Great Britain European Union Democratic Unionist Party (Northern Ireland) Brussels (Belgium)

BRUSSELS — Britain and the European Union agreed on the draft text of a Brexit deal on Thursday, an 11th-hour breakthrough in Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s effort to settle his country’s anguished, yearslong debate over Brexit and pave the way for its departure from the bloc.

The deal, details of which were published shortly after the announcement, must still clear several hurdles, including approval from Europe’s leaders and, most crucially, passage in the British Parliament. Mr. Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, had also struck a deal with Brussels but suffered three thunderous defeats in Parliament.

Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, seen as vital to the passage of the agreement in Parliament, said it did not support the agreement. And the opposition Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, called on members of Parliament to reject it, saying, “It seems the prime minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May’s.”

Mr. Johnson announced the agreement on Twitter, saying that the parties had reached a “great new deal that takes back control” and that Parliament would now be clear to vote on the agreement on Saturday.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission’s president, confirmed that a deal had been struck and noted that a revised arrangement on Northern Ireland had been reached.

He wrote on Twitter: “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.”

Britain’s frantic efforts to negotiate a Brexit agreement with the European Union had appeared to hit a last-minute snag after the D.U.P. said in a statement on Thursday morning that it could not support the deal “as things stand.

The statement, hours before Mr. Johnson was to present the deal to European leaders at a summit meeting in Brussels, suggested that domestic politics once again threatened to torpedo the complex negotiations.

It was unclear whether the deal had been altered before the agreement with European leaders was reached. It was also unclear whether the Northern Irish party simply wanted to make a show of holding out for its position before ultimately acquiescing — or whether Mr. Johnson faced a serious rebellion from the skeptics in his ranks.

Mr. Johnson may have an advantage over his predecessor in securing parliamentary approval for the deal, because he has assiduously cultivated the most skeptical elements of his party.

For days, Mr. Johnson had worked frantically to bridge a gap over the thorny question of how to treat Northern Ireland in a post-Brexit Europe — a fiendishly complex issue that helped torpedo Mrs. May’s agreement and could still fracture Mr. Johnson’s Conservative-led coalition in Parliament.

People briefed on the talks said Mr. Johnson had given significant ground on the structure of a customs unions that would allow Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, to continue to trade seamlessly with Ireland and other members of the European Union.

It was a dramatic culmination to down-to-the-wire talks that began on Tuesday morning, with some European officials predicting that the two sides would not be able to close the gap on customs issues in time to finalize a draft deal before the critical summit meeting of European leaders on Thursday and Friday.

The value of the British pound soared on the news of a deal to a five-month high, trading at $1.29 to the dollar. The rise reversed a slump earlier in the day, when the Democratic Unionist Party signaled that it would not back Mr. Johnson’s draft deal.

The Democratic Unionists, who have proved to be a pivotal blocking force in previous attempts to negotiate a Brexit agreement, said they were troubled by elements of the deal on how to handle Northern Ireland in a post-Brexit world.

“As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on a customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity on VAT,” the party said in a statement issued earlier on Thursday, referring to the value-added tax.

The party said it would continue working with the government on an acceptable agreement.

Mr. Johnson has consulted closely the Democratic Unionists and other skeptical elements of his Conservative Party-led coalition as a deal has taken shape. On Wednesday, optimism had grown amid signs in Brussels that the deadlock over Britain’s planned departure from the bloc could be on the verge of breaking.

Brussels has pushed Mr. Johnson so far that it “makes sense they are unhappy,” Mujtaba Rahman, an analyst with the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, said of the Democratic Unionists. But he said it was unclear how serious the setback was, because “the D.U.P. does have to be seen fighting.”

The intervention from the Democratic Unionists underscored the problems that Mr. Johnson faces in trying to get any deal through Parliament, where he does not have a majority. Without the support of the D.U.P., Mr. Johnson has little hope of getting any agreement ratified by Parliament.

It is also a reminder that he faces many of the problems confronted by Mrs. May. In December 2017, the Democratic Unionists derailed her efforts to reach a deal to allow her to proceed to another phase in the Brexit negotiations.

That happened while she was holding a working lunch with Mr. Juncker. She was forced to pause discussions with the European Commission president, and keep diplomats waiting, to take a call from Arlene Foster, the Democratic Unionist Party’s leader.

Mrs. May then returned with a revised plan several days later, at which point Ms. Foster said that the new version ensured that there would be no border between Britain and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.

Essentially, Mr. Johnson’s proposed agreement would leave Northern Ireland aligned with European Union laws and regulations on most trade issues, even as it moved out of the European single market and into a customs union with Britain.

Under the proposed terms, there would be customs checks on goods flowing from Britain to Northern Ireland to ensure that they meet the rules if those goods were ultimately destined for the European Union.

There would be a complex series of rules on tariffs and value-added tax payments to compensate for differences in tariff rates between the European and British customs unions, though negotiators had struggled on Tuesday to resolve the issue of how to rebate value-added tax payments.

The arrangement would also be subject to consent by the Northern Ireland Assembly, but in a way that would prevent the Democratic Unionists, who have opposed previous such proposals, from simply vetoing it at the first possible opportunity.

The Democratic Unionists are crucial to Mr. Johnson’s effort to win a majority for the deal in Parliament. Their opposition to similar previous versions of a Brexit agreement forced Mrs. May to overhaul that agreement to place all of Britain in the European customs union for a period of time.

Mrs. May’s deal was, nevertheless, soundly defeated in Parliament three times.

Mr. Johnson was seen as having a better chance of cobbling together a majority, in part because he was a vocal supporter of Brexit before the 2016 referendum and thus has greater credibility with euroskeptic elements of the Conservative coalition.

The Democratic Unionist Party campaigned for Brexit in the 2016 referendum campaign, and Mr. Johnson has presented his plan as the last chance to deliver on that mandate from voters. In Northern Ireland as a whole, however, 56 percent of voters in the referendum favored remaining in the European Union.

Yet, for the party, which is strongly committed to maintaining Northern Ireland’s status as a part of the United Kingdom, the issues being negotiated by Mr. Johnson are existential. That is because if they bind Northern Ireland much more closely to Ireland, its southern neighbor, some fear that it would inevitably lead to a united Ireland.

If the Democratic Unionists have collectively decided that the proposals are unacceptable, they will have to change to secure support.

Mr. Johnson has vowed to withdraw Britain from the European Union, with or without a deal, by Oct. 31, and his negotiators have labored to seal an agreement by this week so that he is not forced to ask Brussels for an extension, as would be required under a measure that Parliament passed last month.

Anna Schaverien contributed reporting from London.

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Peter Golds: Why voter ID for elections is long overdue

Cllr Peter Golds is a councillor in Tower Hamlets. He has served as a London Councillor for almost 21 years and is a Board Member of the Conservative Councillors Association.

Amongst many revelations in Willie Carlin’s recently-released book Thatcher’s Spy; My Life as an MI5 Agent inside Sinn Fein is what he describes as his greatest achievement; the ending of “vote stealing” – the endemic electoral corruption that poisoned the electoral process and much else, in the province for decades.

This was wholesale corruption that was endorsed and carried out by both sides in the sectarian divide. As described in the Sunday Times extracts of his book, he organised the vote stealing that helped elect Bobby Sands to Parliament. This was achieved by having a team to impersonate voters whom they knew had not voted. In his words “this wide open abuse still exists on the mainland.” Chillingly, he jokes that with a small budget and a few hundred workers “I could probably win a marginal seat for any candidate or independence for Scotland.”

In order to deal with this problem the Blair Government introduced voter ID in Northern Ireland. The result has been to clean up elections in and lift the taint of corruption that for over half a century had soured elections in the province. This reform was one of a number of measures that increased cross-community confidence across Northern Ireland.

The integrity and legitimacy of the ballot and elections must be of one of the prime concerns of any democratic government – and there are serious failings in the UK at present.

To be handed a voting paper on demand, as is the custom in England, Scotland and Wales, is out of touch with reality. Democracies across the world, including those in the EU, require a form of ID for an elector to vote. The notion that ID is unavailable is wrong. It is not possible to rent a property, open a bank account, claim benefit, drive a car, obtain a driving licence, or enter many official buildings without ID in one form or another.

How often, in modern society, is ID routinely required? I continuously come across voters who express surprise that it is not required when voting.

The Labour Party has strict internal rules about ID. Two forms of ID are required to attend Labour Party selection meetings. Labour charges £30 to process photo ID to enable delegates to attend the party conference. Momentum restricted those attending a rally to campaign against voter ID to those producing ID in the form of a membership card. The latter point proving, if any proof were needed, that Momentum is a veritable corkscrew of hypocrisy.

The Electoral Reform Society naturally opposes this change. Their former director issued press statements against voter ID whilst simultaneously seeking and failing to secure a Labour Parliamentary nomination which required her supporters to attend selection meetings.

There are constant excuses that personation and voter fraud is not a problem. I have seen far too much of it to be more than aware that there is a problem. In Tower Hamlets, this has included people standing outside polling stations with copies of an electoral register to provide convenient names to potential fraudsters.

I had evidence of one fraudster placing four names (which he had forgotten) on the electoral register using an incorrect house number and demanding from the electoral registration officer cards for electors whose names he could not remember. I witnessed a man turning up in Tower Hamlets with a poll card from Enfield, and trying to look for a similar name on the register in front of the poll clerk. Then there is the sad case of the man whose death was registered in Bangladesh on an election day. Miraculously, his vote was recorded thousands of miles away in Tower Hamlets. Elsewhere there was extensive coverage of the incident in the Midlands of poll clerks showing students a register and asking them to find their name.

These are just a few tips of a scarcely-concealed iceberg which damages democracy. In fact, what I have reported above is the tip of an iceberg. Consider the situation when serious fraudsters such as Willie Carlin, Lutfur Rahman and Tariq Mahmood set out to steal an election, and have not only themselves but a machinery to achieve it. We know the answer and it can be identified in recent election petitions.

Amongst our problems in resolving this situation is the ongoing failure of the police to actually investigate personation and election fraud in any meaningful way. I accept that this is expensive and requires training of officers. Too often, the police response to complaints is to ignore them or simply do the minimum which involves looking at the offence and “speaking to the offender.” The result of this is that there is no record of far too many offences and therefore it can be said there is not a problem. However, Birmingham, Peterborough, Derby, Slough, Woking and Tower Hamlets prove otherwise.

I am concerned that the disaster of Operation Midland will make the police even less inclined to undertake investigations that intrude into politics. The legacy of Tom Watson misusing both the parliamentary and legal systems to smear political opponents for party political gain is likely to make the police even more wary of actually investigating electoral fraud.

The reason there is legislation governing human actions ranging from speeding in a car to completing a tax return is that this is essential for good conduct. The number of convictions for speeding and tax avoidance is far smaller than the incidents of both, but society expects there to be a legal framework and enforcement. Nobody says that speeding and tax evasion do not exist.

Even the feeble electoral commission have asked that the modest reform of voter ID be introduced. In Northern Ireland, any elector that does not have a form of ID can obtain a certificate from the local authority. The Government are proposing to extend this across all of Great Britain and doing so to bring our voting procedures in line with other mature democracies that value one person one vote.

There have been voter ID trials and they proved successful and popular with voters who are reassured that their vote actually counts. The opposition to this simple change by Labour smacks of cynicism and possibly something worse. Why is Labour so keen on ensuring their internal processes are managed correctly yet opposed to ensuring the integrity of the ballot in local and national elections?

Marsha-Jane Thompson a Momentum activist once employed by Tower Hamlets council, was prosecuted for submitting 100 forged applications to vote to Newham Council. She now has a House of Commons Pass and is employed to work on Jeremy Corbyn’s events and campaigns team.

Strangely, Labour are unhappy at being reminded of this. Why?

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Cabinet meeting brought forward to 2.30pm

The Cabinet meeting that was due to take place at 4.30pm has been brought forward to 2pm.

This follows a meeting in Downing Street with Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds of the DUP.

There is some speculation that progress towards a deal has stalled.

For example, Rowena Mason, the Deputy political editor at The Guardian, tweets:

“Noises still quite negative from the UK side re getting the DUP on board. PM’s official spokesman says “issues remain to be resolved” although he insists some progress was made overnight.”

Steven Swinford, the Deputy Political Editor of The Times tweets that Sammy Wilson of the DUP has raised the following “significant concerns”:

  • Consent *must* be based on cross-community double majority
  • Deal will ‘diminish’ NI Assembly
  • Customs checks will lead to ‘impediments’ to trade between GB & NI

 

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Brexit-rella? EU sets midnight deadline for resolving Irish border issue

Westlake Legal Group barnier-ap Brexit-rella? EU sets midnight deadline for resolving Irish border issue United Kingdom The Blog Northern Ireland Michel Barnier European Union DUP Brexit Boris Johnson backstop

Why will Boris Johnson turn into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight? The EU’s chief negotiator has set that as a deadline for the British prime minister to offer his concessions on the Irish border in writing. It’s the last minute, almost literally, before the EU meetings that could possibly accept a revamped Brexit deal before the Hallowe’en deadline.

And even that might not work if Johnson can’t sell Parliament on the necessary concessions:

Michel Barnier has set Boris Johnson a midnight deadline to concede to EU demands and agree to a customs border in the Irish Sea or be left with nothing to take to the Commons.

According to sources, the EU’s chief negotiator told ministers that without a major move there was little prospect of a deal being signed off by leaders at a summit on Thursday, before a special sitting of the UK parliament on Saturday.

Don’t get your hopes up, either. While Johnson has discussed some potential concessions, he’s put nothing in writing yet. Until that happens …

Legal text had yet to be tabled by the British negotiators, Barnier told ministers in Luxembourg. He advised the EU capitals he would announce on Wednesday whether negotiations on an agreement would have to continue into next week.

Barnier warned that the starting point for a deal has to be the Northern Ireland-only backstop, keeping it in the EU’s single market for goods and erecting a customs border in the Irish Sea, a proposal previously rejected by Theresa May.

It’s a proposal that will get immediately rubbished by the DUP too, which is why May had to reject it in the first place. The DUP provides the Tories what little claim they still have to a parliamentary majority, and they have made clear in the past few days that their position has not changed. Northern Ireland has to get treated exactly the same as the rest of the UK or it’s no deal.

Still, hope springs eternal, and Barnier told the media earlier that anything is possible:

Time is running out, however, and an agreement would need to include the complete legal text — not just conceptual agreement. That might make this the thirteenth hour more than the eleventh:

A senior German official wouldn’t rule out a Brexit agreement in principle by Wednesday afternoon, but stressed the importance of the specifics — and how time consuming they will be to work out.

“The basis for our decisions are legal texts in which the details are settled,” the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity in line with department rules, said in Berlin. “But there has been progress, and as always in these negotiations the biggest progress happens over the final meters.”

Late Monday, Dutch Foreign Minister Stef Blok said the British proposals to keep the Irish border protected from smuggling and fraud once it leaves the bloc were insufficient.

“The U.K. proposal contained some steps forward but not enough to guarantee that the internal market will be protected,” Blok said.

Word around the UK campfire will be that Johnson will publish a proposal by tomorrow, and that it will attempt to eat his cake whilst having it too:

It is understood that the negotiating teams have agreed in principle that there will be a customs border down the Irish Sea. A similar arrangement was rejected by Theresa May as a deal that no British prime minister could accept.

Johnson will still have to win over parliament – including the Democratic Unionist party (DUP) and the hardline Tory Brexiters in the European Research Group – on the basis that, under the deal, Northern Ireland will still legally be within the UK’s customs territory.

“Northern Ireland would de jure be in the UK’s customs territory but de facto in the European Union’s,” one diplomatic source said of the tentative agreement.

The prime minister will be able to boast that the UK “whole and entire” has left the European Union.

That’s, um, pretty much what the EU offered two years ago. May might have gone for it if she hadn’t gambled on a snap election and wound up in the DUP’s debt. Will the DUP allow Johnson to save face by agreeing to this rhetorical compromise but major functional concession? I’d call it doubtful at best.

For now, the safe bet is that Johnson turns into a pumpkin at midnight. And then the question becomes whether he can legally cross over the border on Hallowe’en or whether he becomes subject to agricultural inspections. Heyyy-yoooooo ….

The post Brexit-rella? EU sets midnight deadline for resolving Irish border issue appeared first on Hot Air.

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Stephen Booth: Step by painful step, both sides creep close to agreement over Northern Ireland

Stephen Booth is Acting Director at Open Europe.

The silence from the Brexit negotiations has been deafening. Before Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar’s surprisingly positive meeting last week, a deal looked all but impossible. There remain significant political and technical hurdles to a deal being reached, not to mention a very tight timeline for the parliamentary ratification required to take the UK out of the EU by 31st October. However, negotiations between the UK and the EU have “intensified” and the fact that we have had very few leaks, briefings or counter-briefings would suggest that all sides are taking this process seriously in the run up to the European Council later this week, and all are mulling difficult compromises.

The recent talks have focused on the three issues relating to Northern Ireland at the heart of finding alternatives to the “undemocratic backstop”: regulatory alignment with the EU’s rules on agricultural and industrial products; the customs regime; and mechanisms for ensuring that what is agreed has the consent of both communities. The secrecy surrounding this phase of negotiations means we do not know the exact details – and the devil is often in the details of last-minute EU deals – but the general shape of what a revised deal could entail is becoming clearer. The question is, could it fly in Westminster, Brussels, Belfast and Dublin?

Two weeks ago, the UK proposed an “all-island regulatory zone” whereby Northern Ireland would align with EU rules, not only for agricultural products but manufactured goods as well. This would remove the need for regulatory checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic but would require traders moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland to enable checks to satisfy EU concerns that products meet its standards. This would expand, potentially significantly, on the veterinary checks that are currently undertaken on Northern Irish imports of livestock from Great Britain. There would be no regulatory checks on trade in the other direction.

Of the three areas being discussed, the proposals for regulatory alignment most clearly resemble the provisions of the backstop and would therefore be a major concession for the DUP in particular. This is why the UK has suggested that any regime of Northern Irish alignment is subject to the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive – the so-called “Stormont Lock” – before it can come into effect and that this consent is renewed every four years. The EU and Dublin have objected, stating that this grants Unionists an effective veto over alignment, yet the rumoured EU counter-offer would have given a similar veto to Nationalists in the other direction.

The second plank of the current negotiations is customs and this is where we have the least information to go on. The UK has been adamant that Northern Ireland must be part of the UK’s customs territory, so that the UK can leave the EU’s customs union as a whole and conduct an independent trade policy. However, the EU appears to have rejected the UK’s proposals for a light-touch Irish border upheld by simplified procedures, exemptions for small businesses and checks away from the border.

Nevertheless, the talks have continued and the speculation is that both sides are considering a hybrid, dual-tariff regime for Northern Ireland, resembling the New Customs Partnership previously floated for the entire UK-EU relationship under Theresa May’s premiership. A dual or hybrid customs regime would remove the need for a North-South customs border and mean that goods for final consumption in Northern Ireland would be eligible for UK tariffs, which could be lower than the EU tariff. Therefore, Northern Ireland could benefit from any UK trade liberalisation post-Brexit. Exactly how the dual tariff regime would be administered is unclear, but it could take the form of a consumer rebate. The obvious drawback would be that goods moving to the island of Ireland from Great Britain would be subject to customs procedures in the Irish Sea.

The EU was fiercely opposed to the dual tariff idea when it was previously suggested, since it would be complex to administer and enforce. But it might be persuaded if it applied solely to Northern Ireland because the risk of border leakage is much smaller than if it covered all UK-EU trade.

However, the idea of customs procedures in the Irish Sea ought to be anathema to the DUP; so why might they consider this idea? Firstly, in contrast to the backstop, the Northern Irish consumer would benefit from independent trade deals struck by the UK. Secondly, Northern Ireland would be subject to a trade policy governed by Westminster in consultation with Stormont, rather than Brussels in consultation with Dublin.

Another potentially significant attraction of the hybrid customs regime to Unionists is that it would provide a much more durable relationship between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK than under the backstop. A fundamental DUP anxiety has been that, without a clear exit mechanism for the whole UK, a future UK government might be tempted to “ditch” Northern Ireland in the backstop, in order to secure an independent trade policy for Great Britain. Seen in this light, not only is the backstop politically painful for the DUP now, it has the capacity to get significantly worse. If, however, the UK is able to pursue an independent trade policy under this hybrid regime, there would be no need for it to be revisited in future or the resulting uncertainty for Northern Ireland’s status that would inevitably arise.

The final area of negotiation is around the principle of consent in Northern Ireland for whatever arrangements ultimately govern its relationship with the EU and the UK. This is clearly a very thorny area but if Northern Ireland’s customs regime were secured at the outset (with Unionists’ consent), finding a mechanism to deal with regulatory alignment or divergence on food standards or widgets in the future might be a little less contentious.

UK and EU negotiators may be missing a trick by insisting that Northern Ireland has to choose whether to be aligned with the UK or the EU en bloc. Given that the UK is not going to diverge on every or even many rules covering product standards on day one post-Brexit, why not assume that Northern Ireland starts off fully EU compliant but will diverge along with the UK on an ad hoc basis in the future, unless Stormont elects to continue EU alignment? Stormont could then make such decisions with an understanding of the practical implications either way. Any issues or checks arising from any individual instance of divergence could be mediated through consultation between the UK, the EU and Ireland, bringing in a North-South dimension to resolving all-island issues in the future.

Overall, the odds are probably still stacked against a deal in the given timeframe but it does appear that agreement is now possible.

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