EU Shuts Down Talk of Fallback If Deal Defeated: Brexit Update
A mural reading ‘The Future Is Europe’ sits on display on Rue de la Loi in Brussels, Belgium. (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

EU Shuts Down Talk of Fallback If Deal Defeated: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal with the European Union was barely agreed before it ran into trouble at home, as his Northern Irish allies in parliament said they could not support it.

EU leaders meeting in Brussels Thursday endorsed the agreement, while Johnson’s aides back in London began trying to muster the votes needed to get the plan through parliament, where he does not have a majority.

Here is a rundown of major events in Brussels local time:

Key Developments:

  • Johnson’s Northern Irish allies, the Democratic Unionist Party, said they won’t support the deal
  • New withdrawal agreement means customs checks between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K.
  • Juncker signals no more extensions, helping Johnson’s cause. But it’s not his call

EU Likely to Grant Extension If Johnson Asks (8:55 p.m.)

It’s unlikely the bloc’s leaders would refuse a request for an extension if the U.K. seeks it, according to an EU official. There would need to be a reason such as an election or referendum, said the official, who added that they expect Johnson would campaign for the deal he’s negotiated rather than a no-deal exit. An extension would require another summit, the official said.

Javid Says No Impact Assessment, Benefits of Deal ‘Self-Evident’

U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid dismissed calls from 29 Members of Parliament for an impact assessment on the deal before they vote on it.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Javid said he doesn’t think there is any need for such an analysis. "It’s self-evident that bringing certainty on the whole delivery of Brexit is a good thing," he said.

Earlier, a group of MPs including former Justice Secretary David Gauke wrote to the chancellor asking him to look at the impact of the deal before they vote. Javid said he doesn’t agree with existing government assessments which suggested earlier plans could reduce GDP by 3.9%.

Johnson Will Fly Back to London to Sell Deal (8:02 p.m.)

The premier plans to return to London after the leaders’ dinner concludes on Thursday night so he can spend Friday trying to persuade members of Parliament to back his Brexit agreement in a vote on Saturday.

A U.K. official said he’s likely to offer a package of plans intended to win over opposition Labour MPs, including protections for workers’ rights and environmental standards after Brexit.

In his press conference in Brussels, Johnson said the plan for the future partnership contained important commitments to maintain the "highest possible standards" on "social protection" and the environment. "We make those commitments gladly and they are entirely right for our country to do," he said.

Rutte Says EU Has to Accept Reality of Brexit (7:30 p.m.)

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte voiced sentiments shared by many leaders at the summit. "I hate Brexit from every angle," he said. "At the same time, this is the reality. The reality is that the Brits want out, and I have to help work towards a solution there."

EU Council President Donald Tusk and Ireland’s Leo Varadkar both said the door will be open for the U.K. to return one day. While European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said the 48% of British voters who opposed Brexit "were right."

Johnson Says Another Delay Suits No One (7:22 p.m.)

The British prime minister argued that the deal delivers on Brexit, keeps the U.K. together and lays the foundation for a new relationship with the EU. "This is our chance in the U.K. as democrats to get Brexit done," he said. "I don’t think delay is to the advantage of the U.K. or indeed of the whole of Europe. I think people want to move this thing on, it’s been going on for a long time."

Johnson Won’t Say How He Plans to Win the Vote (7:09 p.m.)

Boris Johnson didn’t answer the two most critical questions when he spoke to journalists after the summit: what will he do if he loses the vote in Parliament? And did he ask EU leaders to rule out any further extension to help his case?

He said he’s confident U.K. deputies will back his deal once they’ve had chance to consider its merits.

EU Council Shut Down Debate on Fallback Plan (7:04 p.m.)

A few countries wanted to talk about how EU leaders would respond if the U.K. Parliament rejects the deal in the vote expected on Saturday, according to one EU official. That discussion, however, was quickly shut down by others around the table, the official said.

Most EU leaders are keen to avoid interfering with Johnson’s domestic battles -- either by increasing pressure on undecided lawmakers, or by offering them a way out via an extension.

Varadkar Says Deal Meets All Ireland’s Goals (6:58 p.m.)

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said all his government’s objectives had been achieved in the agreement and lauded the solidarity the EU has shown with Ireland in the Brexit process. "United we stand, divided we fall," he told reporters in Brussels.

He also held open the door from the U.K. to rejoin the bloc at some point. "It’s a little bit like an old friend that’s going on a journey or adventure without us, and we really hope it works out for them, but I think there will always be a place at the table for them if they ever choose to come back,” he said.

No Reference to an Extension in Official Conclusions (6:39 p.m.)

As expected, EU leaders didn’t put in writing any threat to deny a further extension if Johnson’s deal is voted down by parliament on Saturday. The only thing they did say in the summit communique is that the deal can take effect as of Nov. 1 -- so an extension shouldn’t be necessary.

EU Council President Donald Tusk said that if an extension was requested, it would be considered. "The ball is in the court of the U.K.," Tusk told reporters. "If there is a request for an extension I will consult with member states to see how to react."

Merkel Says She Wants Quick Trade Deal With U.K. (6:23 p.m.)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said EU leaders were unanimous in welcoming the Brexit agreement; she wants a trade deal with the U.K. to be negotiated quickly once Britain’s departure has been completed.

She said there was no discussion of what leaders might do if the U.K. Parliament rejects the deal.

"We didn’t consider every if or but," Merkel said at a press conference. "But it’s clear that we of course trust in the British Parliament to make its decision. It’s an old, experienced and wise parliament and the British Parliament will make this decision in the fullest freedom."

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker earlier ruled out another extension for the British, upping the pressure on lawmakers to back the agreement. But Juncker doesn’t decide on an extension. That’s up to the leaders’ council.


©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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