UK parliament set for Saturday vote on revised withdrawal agreement brokered ahead of October 31 Brexit deadline.
The deal has been unanimously endorsed by EU leaders and passed to the UK parliament for ratification in a vote scheduled for Saturday.
Here are the latest updates:
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a cabinet meeting at 15:00 GMT (4pm local time) on Friday ahead of Saturday’s crucial Brexit vote in parliament, his spokeswoman said.
Johnson’s team will be speaking to legislators from across parliament on Friday, the spokeswoman said.
She added that if the deal is approved on Saturday, a bill to implement it could begin its legislative process as early as Monday.
The British parliament’s Treasury Committee demanded that the finance ministry produce fresh economic forecasts of the cost of leaving the EU under Johnson’s deal before politicians have to vote on Saturday.
“It is unacceptable that the Committee has not received this information from HM Treasury. It appears to be an attempt to avoid scrutiny,” the committee’s acting chair, Catherine McKinnell, wrote in a letter to finance minister Sajid Javid.
Javid told reporters in Washington on Thursday that he did not intend to update finance ministry forecasts on the cost of Brexit that were last produced in November 2018.
As Britain’s exit from the EU hangs on a knife-edge, anti-Brexit campaigners ploughed into a field a protest message in giant letters reading “Britain now wants to remain” in rural southern England.
Crowdfunded campaign group Led By Donkeys released helicopter footage showing a tractor putting the finishing touches on 40-metre (130-foot) high letters ploughed into a field belonging to an anti-Brexit farmer in the county of Wiltshire in southwest England.
The Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) Brexit spokesman and MP Sammy Wilson told BBC Radio that the party’s 10 legislators in Westminster will vote against Johnson’s deal on Saturday.
“We will be encouraging [other lawmakers to vote against] because we believe it does have an impact on the unity of the United Kingdom, will spark further nationalist sentiment in Scotland and will be detrimental to the economy of Northern Ireland,” he said.
Wilson noted that voting against the deal was “not the end of the game”, but would, in fact, open up possibilities for the Johnson-led government “which are not available at present after a general election”.
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell accused Johnson of selling out “virtually every sector of our economy” with the new Brexit deal.
In a post on Twitter, McDonnell said Johnson had also sold out “all those who may have voted to leave believing a deal could be secured that protected their jobs.”
The more people examine text of Johnson deal, the more you realise what a sell out deal it is. It’s not just the DUP, he’s sold out virtually every sector of our economy & all those who may have voted to leave believing a deal could be secured that protected their jobs. #Sellout
— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) October 17, 2019
Sajid Javid, the UK’s finance minister, said the new Brexit deal will bring certainty to the UK economy.
There is a decent chance that the deal will get through parliament but the government is still prepared to leave without a deal by the October 31 deadline if necessary, he said.
Javid added that there was no need for an impact assessment, requested by an opposition MP, saying it should be obvious to MPs that the best thing for the economy is to have an orderly exit from the EU.
Opposition Labour MP Hilary Benn asked the UK government to release an impact assessment on the Brexit deal so that MPs can consider it before Saturday’s vote.
“Given the significance in particular of the revised political declaration and the Government’s previous assessment of the adverse economic impact of a free trade agreement with the EU, I think it is really important that colleagues have the fullest assessment available to them in order to inform their decision,” Benn wrote in a letter to Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay.
My letter to Stephen Barclay asking the Government to publish an impact assessment on the Brexit deal so that MPs can consider it before they vote on Saturday. pic.twitter.com/k8LbUM3bun
— Hilary Benn (@hilarybennmp) October 17, 2019
Johnson said he was confident that the UK parliament would back the Brexit deal struck with the EU – despite key allies coming out against it.
“I am very confident that when my colleagues in parliament study this agreement, they will want to vote for it on Saturday and in succeeding days,” he said.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier called Brexit a “negative experience” and a “lose-lose process”.
He told reporters that, after the UK leaves the EU, the work on a new partnership between the two will have to start.
“The UK is going to be there in the future. It’s going to be our economic partner, our friend and our ally to protect the security of our entire continent,” Barnier said.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said the Irish backstop had been replaced with a “new solution”, which will come into force for four years following a “transition period”.
This period would be “at least until the end of 2020, but extendable until the end of 2022, in which nothing will change, thus giving certainty to citizens and businesses in Ireland, in Britain and also across the European Union”, he said.
After the four-years following the transition period, the Northern Ireland assembly will need to decide if it wants the arrangement to continue.
Varadkar added that there would be no checks along the land border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland under the solution.
Just updated Irish and European media on the draft #Brexit agreement with @eucopresident @JunckerEU and @MichelBarnier. It creates a unique solution for Northern Ireland. Now back into the @EUCouncil for the rest of today’s business pic.twitter.com/L9YicSvJ4T
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) October 17, 2019
President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, said he felt sadness, despite reaching a deal on Brexit.
“On a more personal note, what I feel today is – frankly speaking – sadness, because in my heart I will always be a Remainer and I hope that if our British friends decide to return one day, our door will always be open,” Tusk said.
He added that the deal struck allowed the UK and the EU to “avoid chaos and an atmosphere of conflict” and said if there was a request for an extension to the October 31 deadlines, he would “contact member states to see how to react”.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar praised the strength of EU unity, saying that Europe – when united – could be a “truly good force” in the world.
“I think the unity that we’ve seen in the last few years is a lesson to us for the future. How Europe can achieve its objectives if we’re united and that can be something we take forward into future negotiations, not just with the UK, but with both the US and China and Turkey and others,” he said.
He also thanked the EU for its support of Ireland during the Brexit negotiations and added that he regretted but respected the UK’s decision to leave the bloc.
“It’s a little bit like an old friend that’s going on a journey, or an adventure, without us,” he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Brussels that the deal was “a compromise for all sides,” adding that it had been “hard work” to achieve it.
She said the deal contained key demands from the EU side, including maintaining the integrity of the common market and preserving the Good Friday Agreement.
European leaders unanimously endorsed the new Brexit deal, sending it to the UK parliament for ratification, the European Council’s president’s office announced in a post on Twitter.
The leaders invited the EU’s institutions to take steps to ensure the agreement can start on November 1, but emphasised that they wanted “as close as possible a partnership with the United Kingdom in the future.”
NOW ONLINE: European Council (Article 50) conclusions
— EU Council Press (@EUCouncilPress) October 17, 2019
The UK parliament voted to hold a rare Saturday session to decide on the government’s new divorce deal with the EU.
It will be parliament’s first Saturday sitting since the 1982 Falklands War.
Several parties – including the main opposition Labour Party – had earlier said they will vote against the revised withdrawal agreement.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker congratulated British Prime Minister Johnson on their Brexit withdrawal deal, saying it meant there would be “no further delay” to the UK’s departure from the bloc.
“We have a deal, and this deal means there is no need for any kind of prolongation,” Juncker told reporters as he welcomed Johnson to the EU’s headquarters ahead of summit talks.
However, the ultimate decision for any extension rests not with Juncker, but with the other 27 EU countries.
Donald Tusk, who as president of the European Council will chair the summit of EU leaders on Thursday, voiced his relief that a new Brexit agreement had been sealed.
Before the summit, Tusk told reporters that a “deal is a much better scenario than no deal”. However, he added it was “not a happy day for Europe”.
The leader of the UK’s pro-Europe Liberal Democrats said the party is determined to halt the Brexit process despite the new divorce deal brokered by London and Brussels.
Jo Swinson said she is “more determined than ever” to stop Brexit and to “give the public the final say”.
Her party is in favour of holding a second referendum on the Brexit question. Its policy is also to halt the Brexit process by revoking the Article 50 letter that triggered it if Swinson becomes prime minister.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar welcomed the new Brexit deal, saying the divorce agreement would allow the UK to leave the EU in an “orderly way”.
Varadkar said the agreement is good for both EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, and protects the EU’s single market and Ireland’s place within it.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas described the Brexit agreement as “nothing less than a diplomatic feat”.
Speaking to reporters in Berlin, Maas said the agreement “is proof that we all worked very responsibly together”.
However, he cautioned that the deal still needs to be discussed by EU leaders at their summit as well as by the European Parliament.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage urged Britain’s parliament to reject the new tentative deal reached between the UK government and the EU.
Farage said the withdrawal agreement is “just not Brexit” and would bind the UK to the EU in too many ways. He added that he would prefer an extension to the October 31 Brexit deadline to be followed by a national election rather than a parliamentary vote in favour of the new terms.
Farage said he favours a “clean break” with Europe rather than “another European treaty”.
Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), said her party will not vote for the new Brexit deal.
The revised agreement “would take Scotland out of the EU, out of the single market and out of the customs union against the overwhelming democratic will of the people of Scotland,” Sturgeon said in a written statement.
She added her party’s legislators, which account for 35 of the UK Parliament’s 650 MPs, “will not vote for Brexit in any form”.
Sturgeon, who has long championed a second independence referendum for Scotland, said “it is clearer than ever that the best future for Scotland is one as an equal, independent European nation”.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney welcomed the new Brexit deal, calling it a “big step forward” that “protects the core Irish interests”.
“Its a deal that recognises all of the issues that we have been raising for the last three years. It is a deal that will protect people on this island, it will protect peace on this island, it will protect trade on this island,” Coveney said.
French President Emmanuel Macron said it was now down to UK Prime Minister Johnson to deliver a vote in the UK parliament on the Brexit deal agreed with the EU.
When asked by reporters if the deal would pass the House of Commons Macron, said: “This is not my job. As long as I’m here, I’m not the prime minister [of the UK].”
“This is your prime minister to deliver now a vote to Parliament so I … my understanding now is that now he’s in a situation to get a majority at the Parliament and I do hope it will be the case,” he added.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said it could not support what was being proposed in Prime Minister Johnson’s deal regarding customs and consent issues for Northern Ireland’s border with Ireland post-Brexit.
“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 (value-added tax),” DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds said in a statement.
“We will continue to work with the Government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”
“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 allies on his own backbenches,” he said.
The pound surged on news of the provisional deal on Brexit.
The currency, which has been volatile over the past week on conflicting reports of progress, jumped to $1.2934 from $1.2805 earlier in the morning.
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The new Brexit deal is available in full below:
Prime Minister Johnson praised the “great new deal” brokered with the EU, adding it would allow the UK to “take back control”.
“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 #GetBrexitDone #TakeBackControl,” Johnson said in a post on Twitter.
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 #GetBrexitDone #TakeBackControl
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 17, 2019