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A new deal; now what?

Author: 
Nigel Morris-Cotterill

Both UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU President Junker have announced that a revised deal has been done for the UK to withdraw from the European Union. But both accept that it's not a done deal. Junker has to go back to the European Commission and its 27 members some of whom are resistant to the principle of "Brexit." Johnson has to go back to the House of Commons where several party leaders are, in effect, filibustering to defeat the withdrawal on any terms. And in Brussels, in the EU Parliament, which also has to sign off on the deal, the UK's Brexit Party's leader, Nigel Farage, has already said he doesn't approve of it.

Is it a good deal? Frankly, anything that gets the UK out of the EU in accordance with the wishes of its people and without destroying the economy is a good thing.

Will it pass the EU institutions? Yes, that is highly likely: all 27 countries have been involved and there has been an extraordinary amount of diplomacy at the highest levels in the past two weeks.

Will it pass the UK House of Commons? Probably not. It is highly unlikely that opposition parties, including on this issue the DUP, will give their members a free vote. Worse, Johnson arbitrarily fired around a dozen of his MPs from the party soon after coming to office (which we have to remember was less than two months ago). So they don't have the party whip if Johnson decides to try to compel his party members to vote in favour.

And so, when Parliament sits on Saturday, the opposition are going to force delay, to try to force a situation where the Benn Act comes into play which would force Johnson to seek an extension to the withdrawal date which is set for 30 October. The EU doesn't want that. Johnson has said he won't ask.

Describing his Bill in a twitter message in August, Hilary Benn MP said "The Bill gives the Government time either to reach a new agreement with the European Union at the European Council meeting next month or to seek Parliament’s specific consent to leave the EU without a deal."

So it's reached a new agreement. But Benn's summary of his Bill was disingenuous or at least incomplete because it does not refer solely to the PM putting a new form of agreement before Parliament - it also requires the House of Commons to have approved it. If that does not happen, the PM may put before Parliament a vote to leave the EU without a deal - and if that is defeated, then the PM is required bu the terms of the Act to submit to the EU a letter, in a form set out in...

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