The EU and UK have agreed a Brexit deal just hours before a crunch summit – but the DUP has said it is “news to them”.
Boris Johnson and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed an agreement this morning – barely three hours before 28 EU leaders arrive to pass it.
Yet the deal faces almost certain defeat in the UK Parliament this Saturday after the DUP warned they were still not on board with the deal.
Boris Johnson tweeted: “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.”
The President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted: “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.”
However RTE’s Northern Ireland editor Tommie Gorman swiftly reported that the DUP said the deal being agreed was “news to them”.
The Northern Irish party told the Mirror its statement from 6.45am today rejecting the deal over customs, consent and VAT “still stands”.
The clash means EU leaders could now object to the terms of the deal at today’s two-day European Council summit – and sets up a game of high-stakes Commons poker a few days before the October 31 Brexit deadline.
Boris Johnson left Downing Street for Brussels after announcing white smoke at 10.35am following days of missed deadlines, chaos and counter-claim.
Details of any deal were still yet to be revealed at 11am.
However, it is based on a new Brexit plan that Boris Johnson sent the EU two weeks ago in a bid to replace Theresa May’s 585-page Withdrawal Agreement.
It would keep a transition period continuing EU rules and payments to December 2020. But it would scrap the backstop, an insurance policy designed at preventing a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic from 2021.
In the backstop’s place would be ‘two borders’:
- Northern Ireland and Britain would share a customs territory – forcing customs checks on goods crossing the 310-mile border with the Republic.
- Northern Ireland and the Republic would share EU single market rules – forcing checks on manufactured and agricultural products crossing the Irish Sea.
DUP leader Arlene Foster said the sticking points were customs, consent and VAT rules.
She is thought to be concerned about rumours of a customs border down the Irish Sea, and an ongoing row about whether EU VAT rates would apply in Northern Ireland.
Currently there is a system where firms pay domestic VAT in the same way as VAT on imports or exports between EU states. This could leave questions about how firms in Ireland and Northern Ireland are charged.
The DUP also fear plans to consult the (collapsed and dormant) Stormont Assembly over any future deal could leave them without a veto. They are thought to want a double lock where both nationalists and unionists would have to approve a deal.
DUP chiefs had three face to face meetings with the Prime Minister in quick succession in a desperate bid to overcome the hurdles.
But today Ms Foster and DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds said: “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.”
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