Image Credit: UK Parliament
After meetings with the Irish Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, and other EU leaders, Boris Johnson achieved what many critics said he could not; a revised Withdrawal Agreement.
The new deal remains similar to his predecessors’; however, the most significant change is the removal of the UK wide backstop and its replacement with different goods and customs regulations in Northern Ireland, an attempt to prevent a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
However, while managing to unite a majority of Conservative MPs behind him, Johnson’s deal has received widespread criticism. Some of the biggest opponents of the Prime Minister’s deal are his former partners in the DUP, the largest unionist party in Northern Ireland. They see the creation of a Customs Union for the island of Ireland and implementation of a border effectively in the Irish Sea as reducing their link with Great Britain and thus threatening the union.
Meanwhile, many Labour MPs expressed concern over the lack of dynamic alignment with the European Union on worker’s rights after Brexit.
While a vote in Parliament saw a majority of 329 to 299 voting in favour of Johnson’s Withdrawal Agreement Bill, MPs also voted to delay the timetabling of the bill, which essentially enables them to table further amendments and hold the Government to account for longer than the currently proposed timetable of three days.
19 Labour MPs, mainly from leave voting constituencies in the north of England, rebelled against their own party. While a majority of the 21 MPs recently suspended from the Conservative Party for voting to stop a no-deal Brexit voted in favour of the Withdrawal Agreement.
While it remains unclear whether the new Withdrawal Agreement will be approved by Parliament in the near future, the UK has not been able to leave the European Union by the 31st October.
Despite the EU agreeing to an extension, this has still been dubbed a ‘flextension’ as if an Agreement is ratified by Parliament and the European Union, the UK could leave the European Union before this date and the two-year transition period would begin. To break to the deadlock in parliament, an election has been called as the House of Commons remains unable to reach a compromise.
Johnson originally offered one to gain favour as it allows MPs more time to debate the Brexit deal: potentially a politically useful move in the coming election. With the proposal gaining support across the political spectrum, the UK is set for an election on the 12th December, when the public will head to the polls for the third time in five years.