A deal on a Brexit agreement has been reached between the European Union and the UK in Brussels.
It is understood that the outstanding issues on VAT, consent and customs appear to have been concluded.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has hailed the deal as a reasonable compromise that protects European interests.
UK and EU negotiators brought the deal over the line on the basis that the British government is happy with it.
It will have to be seen how it will play out and if the DUP is on board.
It cannot be guaranteed that the House of Commons will support the deal, but clearly British Prime Minister Boris Johnson must have conveyed enough assurances to the EU that he could get it over the line.
EU leaders, their teams and lawyers will now look at the text to see what it involves.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said he will recommend that leaders at an EU summit endorse the deal.
????? Where there is a will, there is a #deal – we have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions. I recommend that #EUCO endorses this deal. pic.twitter.com/7AfKyCZ6k9
— Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) October 17, 2019
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has described the agreement as a “great new Brexit deal”.
He said that the British parliament “should get the deal done on Saturday”.
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
Earlier, EU and UK negotiators agreed on two complex formulas on how both customs and consent will be managed in a post-Brexit future.
The arrangements will cover the two most controversial and contested elements of attempting to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland.
While the overall revisions to the Withdrawal Agreement were held up over the VAT issue, negotiators managed to forge a deal on consent and customs.
The plan would mean a limited customs border on the Irish Sea, and a potential exit to the revised backstop which might only come about in carefully weighted circumstances.
However, this morning the DUP said in a statement that, as things stand, it cannot support what is being suggested on the customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity on VAT.
The elements were finalised after several days of intense negotiations in which the UK attempted to reconcile a potentially hard Brexit with the need to avoid a customs border on the island of Ireland.
The new arrangements would mean Northern Ireland is legally in the UK’s customs territory, but would apply the EU’s rules and procedures on tariffs.
Northern Ireland would also be aligned with the rules of the single market for industrial goods and agri-food products.
That would mean both regulatory and customs checks and controls on the Irish Sea for goods going from Britain to Northern Ireland.
However, the extent of the controls would be reduced thanks to a series of tariff exemptions.
There would be an automatic exemption for personal goods and possessions carried by those travelling back and forth between Northern Ireland and Britain, or, for example, if an individual was moving house.
However, there would potentially be a broader category of goods and tradeable products that could be exempt from tariffs and controls if there was no risk whatsoever of such goods entering EU’s single market across the land border.
These categories of goods would be decided on in the future by the Joint Committee of EU and UK officials by consensus.
The Joint Committee was established in the original Withdrawal Agreement as a way for both sides to manage the new arrangements.
The intensity and scope of Irish Sea checks would be limited by a risk-analysis. However, the EU would, through the Joint Committee, have a veto over which kinds of goods would enjoy an exemption from tariffs and controls.
There would also be a system of rebates for goods shipped from Britain to Northern Ireland if those goods attracted an EU tariff that was higher than the UK tariff.
Negotiators have also agreed how to manage the vexed question of consent, via a complex formula involving the Northern Ireland Assembly.
The mechanism essentially provides a qualified opt-out of the revised backstop arrangements.
Under the terms of the agreement, Northern Ireland would take on the new customs and regulatory regime for four years after the end of the transition period, which is due to conclude at the end of 2020.
At that point Stormont would have to take a view as to whether or not to opt out of the new arrangements.
If Stormont voted to opt out, then there would be a two year cooling-off period, during which all sides would have to find an alternative way of complying with the Good Friday Agreement and avoiding a hard border.
If at the end of the two years no alternative was found, then the protocol would lapse, meaning Ireland would be back to a hard border scenario.
However, if the Stormont Assembly were to collapse during that period, then the default would be that the Protocol arrangements would continue to apply.
There will be also be important variations on how Stormont votes for a potential exit.
If Stormont decides to use a simple majority vote, which is seen as less favourable to the DUP, then if that vote to opt out does not succeed, then it would vote again four years later on an opt out.
However, if Stormont decided to go for a cross-community majority vote, which is seen as more favourable to the DUP, and the vote did not pass, then Stormont would have to wait another eight years before having another opt-out vote.
The arrangements are complex and are expected to draw criticism from all sides.