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Brexit reaction: The backstop 'has been replaced' in new deal that 'protects all-island economy', says Taoiseach

  • EU Commission President Jean Claude Juncker and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have announced a Brexit deal has been done;
  • The EU Commission says the agreement “fully protects the integrity of the EU's Single Market and Customs Union, and avoids any regulatory and customs checks at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland”.
  • DUP opposition to the deal ‘still stands’, the party said, on three grounds - customs, consent and VAT;
  • The British Parliament will vote this Saturday on whether it supports the deal;
  • Taoiseach Leo Varadkar says deal is "good for Ireland and Northern Ireland".
  • Jean Claude Juncker has recommended that all European partners support the deal;

Update: Arriving at the EU summit, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “As things stand we have a draft agreement between the European Union on one the hand and the British Government on the other.

“I think it is a good agreement. It allows the United Kingdom to leave the European Union in an orderly fashion with a transition period which is very important for businesses and citizens across the European Union and also in the UK.

“And also creates a unique solution for Northern Ireland recognising the unique history and geography of Northern Ireland, one that ensures no hard border between north and south, one which allows the all-Ireland economy to continue to develop and one which protects the European single market and our place in it.”

“So I will be in a position to recommend to the European Council today that the agreement be endorsed.”

Mr Varadkar added: “As it stands we have a draft agreement between the EU on one side and British government on the other, it’s a good agreement allowing the UK to leave the EU in an orderly fashion,” he said.

“The backstop has been replaced with a new solution, unique to Northern Ireland recognising its unique geography, and which protects the all-island economy and access to the single market, and takes account of democratic wishes of the people in Northern Ireland."

“The House of Commons will meet on Saturday and the best thing we can do as Irish politicians is not intervene of interfere in UK politics, it’s up to them to decide whether they want a deal, they rejected the last deal on three occasions.”

“I don’t think anything crucial has been discussed in the last three hours. Over the last week or so the Irish government came together with British Government and EU taskforce trying to get around the issues that have been problematic, and we have now have a democracy clause which protects the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland.”

When asked if the DUP could scupper the deal, Mr Varadkar said: “I don’t want to comment on a position taken by any political party, but this will go to House of Commons on Saturday and we have to give them time.”

Earlier: Taoiseach claims Brexit deal 'good for Ireland and North'; Brexit 'being foisted on NI,' says Sinn Féin

The Cabinet is meeting this afternoon to discuss the draft Brexit deal.

The meeting will be chaired by Tánaiste Simon Coveney in the absence of the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald welcomed the deal, but added that there is no such thing as a good Brexit.

“Brexit is being foisted on the north of Ireland against the democratic wishes of the people,” she added.

“As a party, Sinn Féin has worked to defend Irish interests from the worst impacts of Brexit.

“It was Sinn Féin who first made the case for a designated special status for the north within the EU and insisted on the protection of the Good Friday Agreement and no hard border on the island of Ireland as bottom lines.

“We have also insisted that no veto can be given to Unionism. Ireland’s interests must be protected.

“Any deal can only mitigate the worst effects of Brexit, a least worst option.

“The deal agreed today is complex and wide-ranging and all aspects need to be considered in their entirety. We will be meeting with the Tánaiste in the coming hours in this regard.”

Earlier: DUP 'unable to support' EU-UK deal; Taoiseach claims it is 'good for Ireland and North'

The Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the the draft Brexit deal is "good for Ireland and Northern Ireland".

In a tweet, Mr Varadkar said: "We have a Brexit Agreement that allows the UK leave EU in orderly way. We have a unique solution for NI that respects the unique history and geography.

"It is good for Ireland and NI. No hard border. All-island and East-West economy can continue thrive. Protects Single Market & our place in it,"

Update: The DUP has said it will “be unable to support” Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal in the British Parliament.

The DUP said in a statement: “Following confirmation from the Prime Minister that he believes he has secured a ‘great new deal’ with the European Union the Democratic Unionist Party will be unable to support these proposals in Parliament.

“The Democratic Unionist Party has worked since the referendum result to secure a negotiated deal as we leave the European Union. We have been consistent that we will only ever consider supporting arrangements that are in Northern Ireland’s long-term economic and constitutional interests and protect the integrity of the Union.

“These proposals are not, in our view, beneficial to the economic well-being of Northern Ireland and they undermine the integrity of the Union. Our main route of trade on an East–West basis will be subject to rules of the European Union Customs Union, notwithstanding that Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK Customs territory.

“All goods would be subject to a customs check regime regardless of their final destination. The default position, even for goods travelling from one part of our country to another, is that they are considered under the EU Customs code unless otherwise agreed.

“We recognise that only those goods ultimately destined for the Republic of Ireland would be subject to tariffs but the reality remains that the EU would have a veto on which goods would be exempt and which would not under the Joint Committee arrangements. This is not acceptable within the internal borders of the United Kingdom.”

The statement added: “Consumers in Northern Ireland would face the prospect of increased costs, and potentially less choice due to checks being implemented in order to facilitate the European Union. Throughout all the discussions on these issues we have been clear that Northern Ireland should not be subjected to administrative burdens which will be entrenched for the future.

“On VAT Northern Ireland will again be bound into arrangements that the rest of the United Kingdom will not. There is a real danger that over time Northern Ireland will start to diverge across VAT and Customs and without broad support from the democratic representatives of the people of Northern Ireland.

“While some progress has been made in recognising the issue of consent, the elected representatives of Northern Ireland will have no say on whether Northern Ireland should enter these arrangements.

“The Government has departed from the principle that these arrangements must be subject to the consent of both unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland. These arrangements would be subject to a rolling review but again the principles of the Belfast Agreement on consent have been abandoned in favour of majority rule on this single issue alone."

“These arrangements will become the settled position in these areas for Northern Ireland. This drives a coach and horses through the professed sanctity of the Belfast Agreement.

“For all of these reasons it is our view that these arrangements would not be in Northern Ireland’s long term interests. Saturday’s vote in Parliament on the proposals will only be the start of a long process to get any Withdrawal Agreement Bill through the House of Commons.”

The British Irish Chamber of Commerce has welcomed the deal with John McGrane, Director General of the body saying: “The Chamber thanks and congratulates the negotiators on all sides for their commitment to securing an agreeable deal. Business strongly urges all involved to embrace this initiative without delay, to avoid the worst consequences of a no-Deal outcome for jobs and prosperity.”

Earlier: EU-UK Brexit deal a 'big step forward', says Tánaiste

The Tánaiste Simon Coveney has described the last-minute Brexit deal as a “big step forward”.

However, Mr Coveney urged caution over the deal, telling the Dáil that a lot needs to happen over the coming days before there is certainty.

Mr Coveney said the deal ensures that there are no checks between the Republic of Ireland and the North and this is a “significant achievement”.

“The first thing I would say is to urge caution”, the Minister for Foreign Affairs said.

What has changed in the deal relates to Northern Ireland, he added.

Mr Coveney told the Dáil that the Government has always been open to backstop alternatives as long as the same outcomes can be reached.

Michel Barnier, the EU's Chief Brexit Negotiator, at the European Council summit at EU headquarters in Brussels today.

He said: “We maintain an open line with all political parties in Northern Ireland and I am available to any one of those parties.

“Even this week I was in Belfast meeting the Northern Ireland Secretary of State and met Sinn Féin for breakfast and spoke to the leaders of the SDLP and Alliance

“Our approach has always been to listen to all political parties including unionist parties.

“We don’t always agree but is is important to say of course we want to reach out.

“We want to ensure that a deal is something all parties in Northern Ireland can live with.”

Fianna Fáil's Dara Calleary said the DUP remains a “cloud” and he urged the Government to engage with the party after it stood firm over its objections to the UK Government’s Brexit stance.

IFA President Joe Healy has given a cautious welcome to the Brexit deal but said the real test is the vote in the UK Parliament in Westminster on Saturday.

“On the limited information available, the deal appears to address the very deep concerns about creating a hard border on the island of Ireland. For these reasons, we would hope that this deal will be approved by the UK Parliament,” he said.

He added that Irish farmers have already been impacted with the volatility of sterling and the uncertainty in agricultural markets.

He said: “I am therefore calling on the Government to allocate immediately the agricultural funding they set aside for Brexit to assist beef farmers who have suffered grave losses since May 12th this year and are in dire straits, due to political factors totally outside their control.

“While this deal may provide some level of certainty as we head into a standstill transition phase, there is a very difficult negotiation ahead on the future trading relationship between the UK and EU, where no country has more at stake than Ireland.

"There are legitimate fears that the UK is determined to do new trade deals which would undercut EU food safety and environmental standards in pursuit of a cheap food policy. In this regard, the commitments in relation to the ‘level playing field’ could be significant.”

Finnish prime minister Antti Rinne has called on British MPs, including the DUP, to back the deal.

Speaking in Brussels before meeting with Jeremy Corbyn and other EU socialists, Mr Rinne told reporters: “Now the ball is in the UK Parliament again.”

Asked about the DUP’s lack of support, he said: “The ball is again with the British Parliament and I hope that it goes through this time.

“I hope that we are now at the end of this process but there are still many doubts, for example the British Parliament.”

Earlier: Taoiseach refuses to be drawn on deal as Nicola Sturgeon confirms SNP will vote against it

The Taoiseach has refused to be drawn into commentary about the Brexit deal.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves the back of Downing Street, London, on his way to Brussels for the European Council Summit.

While arriving at the pre-council EPP meeting, Mr Varadkar said: “I’m just going to brief my European colleagues, and I’ll speak to the press in more detail at the entrance of the council meeting.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed SNP MPs at Westminster will not vote for the new Brexit deal – warning that a “much harder Brexit beckons” if it passes.

She tweeted: “For Scotland, this deal would take us out of EU, single market and customs union – all against our will. It would leave us as only part of UK being taken out without consent and with no say on future relationship. @theSNP will not vote for that.”

Ms Sturgeon added: “MPs should not fall for a deal/no deal framing. No Brexit/revoke is always an alternative to no deal.”

And she insisted: “Brexit has shown that the only way for Scotland to be in charge of our own future is to become independent – that why we must have #indyref2 next year.”

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has urged Parliament to reject the new deal reached between the UK Government and the European Union.

Mr Farage said the deal is “just not Brexit” and would bind Britain to the EU in too many ways.

He said he would prefer an extension to the October 31 Brexit deadline to be followed by a general election rather than a parliamentary vote in favour of the new terms.

Mr Farage said he favours a “clean break” with Europe rather than “another European treaty”.

He then added he thinks it will be “very difficult” to get the DUP on board given that “effectively they’ve been hived off, almost annexed out of the European union there will be no friction less trade between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.”

Ann McGregor, Chief Executive, Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry (NI Chamber) said: “Following these developments, businesses need a chance to analyse precisely what the terms of this agreement would mean for all aspects of their operations. Many will reserve judgement until they have had time to digest the detail and implications for trade, business growth, export and private sector employment."

Earlier: Deal is 'a fair compromise between the EU and the UK', Howlin

The leader of the Labour Party, Brendan Howlin, has said that the Brexit deal has now moved from diplomacy to domestic British politics.

It comes as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said a Brexit deal has been agreed with the EU.

Mr 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.”

Mr Johnson will attend a crunch EU summit in Brussels and follows days of intense negotiations.

The British Prime Minister’s spokesman said the deal agreed with the European Union “protects the union”.

She told journalists in Westminster: “It is the best way forward for the UK. It is a deal that will take us out of the EU on October 31 and delivers for the country.”

The Number 10 spokeswoman added that “today is a significant moment”.

Boris Johnson is due to make a statement when he arrives in Brussels at about 12.30pm Irish Time, Downing Street confirmed.

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, said: “This agreement is a fair compromise between the EU and the UK. It is testament to the commitment and willingness of both sides to do what is best for EU and UK citizens.

"We now have a newly agreed Protocol that protects peace and stability on the island of Ireland and fully protects our Single Market. I hope that we can now bring this over the line and provide the certainty our citizens and businesses so deserve.”

Michel Barnier, the European Commission's Chief Negotiator, said: “We had difficult discussions over the past days. We have managed to find solutions that fully respect the integrity of the Single Market.

"We created a new and legally operative solution to avoid a hard border, and protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland. It is a solution that works for the EU, for the UK and for people and businesses in Northern Ireland.”

Mr Barnier said the solution “rests on four main elements”:

  • Northern Ireland will remain aligned to a limited set of EU rules, notably related to goods;
  • NI will remain in the UK’s customs territory but will “remain an entry point” into the EU’s single market;
  • An agreement to maintain the integrity of the single market and satisfy the UK’s legitimate wishes over VAT;
  • Northern Ireland representatives will be able to decide “by simple majority” whether to continue applying union rules in Northern Ireland or not, every four years.

Speaking in Brussels, following a meeting with Mr Barnier and the Article 50 Taskforce, Mr Howlin said that most of the technical issues are now resolved between the EU and UK.

Mr Howlin said: “It is clear that the EU team has negotiated a revised deal with their British counterparts, and most of the technical issues are resolved or can be resolved, in the case of VAT rules. The Barnier team do not get involved in domestic political matters, so they are purely interested in agreeing a deal with the British side.

Brendan Howlin.

“The question now is whether Boris Johnson can get this revised deal through the British Parliament. If he can persuade the DUP and the Brexiteers in his own party, he may bring the deal back to London. But if he feels that he can’t get the numbers in Westminster, he may well abandon the deal for domestic political consumption rather than repeat May’s performance of failing to have it pass his own Parliament.

“Later today, I hope to hear the British Labour Party perspective from Jeremy Corbyn. As things stand, it seems highly unlikely that many British Labour MPs will back Johnson’s deal because the revised Political Declaration is likely to move away from European environmental and workplace standards.”

Britain's Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “From what we know, it seems the Prime Minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May’s, which was overwhelmingly rejected.

“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 US private corporations.

“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.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he does not “suspect” Saturday will present a chance to get a confirmatory referendum through Parliament.

Asked if he would back a second referendum on Saturday, he told reporters: “It won’t come up on Saturday I suspect.”

He described reports that Labour could back such a vote as “high level speculation on a hypothetical question”.

On the deal, he said: “This is a day where the Prime Minister seems to have made a deal with the European Union which doesn’t give us the complete freedom of movement between Britain and Ireland because it creates a customs union border down the Irish Sea.

“As it stands we cannot support this deal.

“Also it is unclear whether it has the support of his allies in the DUP, or indeed many of his allies on his own backbenches.”

Ian Wright, Chief Executive of the UK's Food and Drink Federation, said: “The UK’s food and drink manufacturers will welcome the news that a deal has been struck. They will hope that this means, definitively, that a no-deal exit on 31 October cannot happen.

"Our focus now switches to whether this deal can command the support of the UK Parliament, and what the detail of the deal means for our members. Their objectives are securing frictionless trade and regulatory alignment with the EU, our largest market. They also must have access to the workers our industry needs.”

Jenny Tooth – CEO of the UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA), said the deal brings an opportunity to keep confidence in British SMEs.

Ms Tooth said: “At the eleventh hour, there is a tangible chance that the confidence of SMEs could be secured. The lack of clarity during the past months, if not years, has had SMEs worrying for their futures.

"With this deal, investors will have the confidence to back local business. A deal will allow for local businesses, particularly in the regions, to continue their dynamic growth and play their vital role in developing Britain’s economy.”