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What's new in this Brexit deal?

October 17, 2019

The EU and the UK have reached a new deal that's supposed to ensure Britain leaves the European Union in an orderly way. But how's this deal different from the one negotiated by the government of previous PM Theresa May?

Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker
Image: Getty Images/J. Sammer

Negotiators from the European Union and the United Kingdom struck a new tentative Brexit deal on Thursday morning, which now needs to be backed by EU member states and the respective parliaments.

Here are the key details of the revised withdrawal agreement and political declaration:

  • Northern Ireland remains in the UK's customs territory, but all EU rules will apply to goods arriving there in this complex system. There will be no customs checks at a "hard" border on the island of Ireland — they will be done at the point of entry into Northern Ireland.
  • For goods crossing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland that are deemed to be staying there, no EU tariffs will apply.
  • No EU tariffs would be paid on personal goods carried by travelers across the Irish frontier and for a second category of exempted goods that can only be for immediate consumption, rather than subsequent processing.
  • As long as the goods do not cross to Ireland and the EU's single market, only UK customs tariffs will apply.
  • The Northern Irish assembly will have to give consent after Brexit for the region's continued alignment with the EU regulatory regime every four years. But there will be no executive veto option by the Democratic Unionist Party, as originally envisaged. Instead, it will require a simple majority agreement.
  • The UK and the EU aim to establish an ambitious and wide-ranging free trade agreement — these talks will form the second stage of EU-UK talks.
  • Both sides want to reach a deal on services and allow free movement of capital.
  • They also agree to uphold high standards on environment, climate, workers' rights and other rules — this was a key concession by Prime Minister Boris Johnson's side.

Rest remains the same

The previously agreed settlement on citizens' rights after Brexit and Britain's divorce bill stay as they were. The EU's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, told reporters in Brussels that Britain now agrees to pay its financial commitments to the EU. These have been estimated at around 39 billion pounds (€45 billion, $50 billion).

There would also be a transition period of 14 months until the end of 2020, which can be extended by one or two years.

Barnier said he believes the deal can be ratified by the end of October. He called it a "fair and reasonable basis for an orderly withdrawal" by the UK.

Mixed reception 

It is, however, unclear if Johnson can muster the necessary backing to get the agreement through the British Parliament.

Some die-hard Brexiteers in Johnson's Conservative Party who helped bring down his predecessor, Theresa May, have voiced support for the deal.

"It's a really exciting and positive deal," said Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the House of Commons. "It removes the undemocratic backstop. It is a huge advance for the whole of the United Kingdom. It will ensure that we are one single customs territory."

However, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage has urged Parliament to reject it. Farage said Thursday the deal is "just not Brexit" and would bind Britain to the EU in too many ways.

The opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has condemned the deal as "even worse" than the settlement reached by Theresa May. Johnson's Northern Irish allies, the Democratic Unionist Party, have also rejected the deal.

kmm, sri/cmk (Reuters, AP)

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