10/17/2019 1:16:00 PM Boris Johnson gets EU Brexit deal; the next hurdle is Parliament
BRUSSELS (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s career of disdain for the European Union was a thing of the past on Thursday as he and the bloc’s leaders celebrated their long-sought Brexit deal. He now faces an opponent closer to home: his own Parliament.
With the ink barely dry on the proposal and Johnson still happily backslapping EU leaders at a summit in Brussels, a chorus of British party leaders said they would vote against the deal. Crucially, the Northern Irish party that supports Johnson’s minority government also stood opposed, leaving the prime minister uncertain of getting the votes he needs to ratify the agreement.
After an intense week of talks and with only two weeks to go until Britain’s scheduled departure on Oct. 31, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker broke the tension with a tweet Thursday morning: “We have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment.”
The deal found a way to avoid a hard border between Ireland, an EU member, and the U.K.’s Northern Ireland. It crucially also lays a path for Britain’s orderly departure.
European leaders unanimously endorsed the proposal on Thursday, formally sending it to the British Parliament, which will consider it in a special session Saturday.
He said he was confident he would succeed where his predecessor did not — Theresa May’s proposal was voted down three times in Parliament.
“This is a great deal for our country. I also believe it’s a very good deal for our friends in the EU,” Johnson told reporters in Brussels. “There is a very good case for MPs across the House of Commons to express the democratic will of the people as we have pledged many times to do and to get Brexit done.”
He will face a struggle. All the major opposition parties condemned the agreement, and Johnson’s key ally, Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, also said its lawmakers would oppose it.
“It seems the prime minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May’s, which was overwhelmingly rejected,” Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said.
Many opposition lawmakers want to oppose the deal and then seek to delay Brexit while new terms are negotiated. Last month Parliament passed a law ordering the government to seek an extension to the Brexit deadline if Parliament doesn’t approve a deal by Saturday.
But Juncker appeared to rule out any new postponement, leaving British lawmakers with a simple choice: deal, no deal or revoke Brexit.
“If we have a deal, we have a deal, and there is no need for a prolongation,” he said. The ultimate decision on any extension, though, does not rest with Juncker. It’s a decision for the other 27 EU countries.
Johnson’s 10 Downing Street office put it even more succinctly with the mantra: “New deal, no deal but no delay.”
Johnson began his career as a Brussels-based journalist spinning exaggerated tales of EU excess for British readers, and as a politician helped lead the campaign to take Britain out of the EU, but that acrimony was nowhere in sight on Thursday.
Instead, relief was palpable in Brussels as leaders happily mingled in the summit room of the Europa building, which has all too often been ground zero for European crises. Johnson cheerily saluted French President Emmanuel Macron, who responded with the heartiest of handshakes.
The jubilation soon turned bittersweet, with EU leaders bemoaning the impending loss of a major member state — a military, economic and diplomatic juggernaut that had joined 46 years ago.
“In my heart I will always be a Remainer and I hope that our British friends decide to return one day,” European Council President Donald Tusk said, using the nickname for people who supported keeping Britain in the EU. “Our door will always be open.”