UK, EU Agree On Brexit Deal That Now Faces Parliament Vote

MPs set for Saturday vote on Prime Minister Boris Johnson's agreement.

The UK and the European Union have agreed on a Brexit deal in the final hours of negotiations, keeping alive Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hopes of taking the country out of the bloc on Oct. 31.

Announcing the decision Thursday morning, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said it was a “fair and balanced” agreement.

The prime minister said it was a “great new deal that takes back control” and urged MPs to vote for it.

MPs are expected to be asked to approve the agreement at an emergency House of Commons session on Saturday.

Johnson’s chances of winning the knife-edge vote were dealt a blow earlier this morning when Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster said she could not yet back his Brexit plans.

And following the announcement of a deal, the DUP said it was still not onboard. “Has the EU changed its mind since 7am? You have our statement,” a party source told HuffPost UK.

The DUP is digging in over the prospect of a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, as well as the issues of consent regarding the suspended Stormont Assembly.

Another major issue in the prime minister’s proposals are whether EU value added tax (VAT) rates would apply in Northern Ireland.

The party is seen as having significant influence over the stance of hardline Tory Brexiteers in the European Research Group (ERG) and hence are crucial in getting any deal approved by parliament.

But Wednesday night, ERG chairman and self-styled “Brexit hardman” Steve Baker signalled that his group could give its backing.

Without the support of the DUP’s 10 MPs and a number of Tory Brexit purists, Johnson would need to rely on some Labour MPs defying Jeremy Corbyn and voting with the government.

A group of 19 Labour backbenchers have indicated they are willing to vote for a deal.

Corbyn said today the agreement hammered out by the prime minister was an “even worse deal” than Theresa May’s.

“These proposals risk triggering a race to the bottom on rights and protections: putting food safety at risk, cutting environmental standards and workers’ rights, and opening up our NHS to a takeover by U.S. private corporations,” he said.

“This sell-out deal won’t bring the country together and should be rejected. The best way to get Brexit sorted is to give the people the final say in a public vote.”

This story has been updated throughout.