Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 9 July 2020

Britain’s new Brexit deal: The same but different

The new deal includes much of the detail agreed by former leader Theresa May

The Incredible Hulk joins an anti-Brexit demonstration outside the EU summit in Brussels. AP
The Incredible Hulk joins an anti-Brexit demonstration outside the EU summit in Brussels. AP

The new Brexit deal struck Thursday is similar to an agreement rejected three times by British MPs earlier this year but with new elements related to the island of Ireland, the EU’s chief negotiator has said.

Michel Barnier said agreements on Britain’s financial contributions to the EU after it quits the 28-nation bloc and respect for the rights of EU citizens in the UK remained the same as under a deal struck by former premier Theresa May.

Mrs May prepared the ground for the testy negotiations after the referendum by saying that Britain would not be part of the EU's customs and single market arrangements, unlike other non-EU European nations such as Norway.

Backers of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson claimed his deal was markedly differed from the one struck in 2018 by his predecessor notably on the thorniest issues related to Ireland, which is split between EU member the Republic of Ireland in the south, and the north which will remain part of the UK.

The new agreement, according to the government, dumps the ‘Irish backstop’ that was designed to ensure an open border between North and South but was slated as “undemocratic” by hardliners within Mr Johnson’s own party.

The backstop was effectively an insurance policy to ensure that if the UK and the EU failed to negotiate a future trade deal in the coming months, the UK and EU would remain part of a single customs territory.

Critics of the deal from Mrs May’s own party said the backstop could ‘trap’ the UK in an EU-dominated trading system in perpetuity and would prevent the UK from being able to strike its own trade deals with other countries.

The new agreement ends the backstop but introduces a complicated tariffs agreement that will introduce new customs rules that would apply only to Northern Ireland.

It would allow the government to strike global trade deals and ensure that the UK operates under its own laws rather than European legislation, according to the government.

The government said the new arrangement would be underpinned by “democratic consent” that allows Northern Ireland representatives to vote on whether they want to continue with the measures.

The new deal has already been rejected by a party whose support had been vital for Mrs May’s minority government and will be key to getting parliament to agree the new deal.

The Democratic Unionist Party fears the new deal will weaken the historic bonds with the UK. A political deal struck 20 years ago ended three decades of civil strife over Northern Ireland over the question of Irish independence from the UK.

The leader of the Opposition Labour party said the deal was worse than one struck by Mrs May and has vowed to oppose the deal in parliament. Mr Johnson told Mr Barnier that “he has confidence in his ability to win the vote,” the negotiator told reporters.

Updated: October 17, 2019 05:43 PM

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