Brexit: A deal was announced, but the stalemate continues. So, what's going on? | #TheCube

Brexit: A deal was announced, but the stalemate continues. So, what's going on? | #TheCube
By Seana Davis
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Deals, debate and delay: what's happened with Brexit in the last week?


One week ago, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker took to Twitter to confirm that the UK and the EU had reached an agreement. 

"Where there is a will, there is a deal," he said. 

But the Brexit deadlock continues, despite significant moves made over the past seven days. Many social media users have flocked to platforms such as Twitter to express their confusion, so what are the key points of contention, and what's next?

What has happened in the past seven days?

The deal was announced on Thursday, October 17th. Many had hoped that this would be a turning point to end the Brexit stalemate and avoid a no-deal scenario. 

Once Johnson's plan had been agreed, the next step was to bring it to a vote in the House of Commons. 

This happened on October 19th in a day that was coined "Super Saturday". In a blow for UK PM Boris Johnson, MPs voted to withhold their support for the deal.

This led to the sending of two letters by Johnson. The first being an unsigned copy of the Benn Act. This is a piece of legislation that was agreed in September that would require the Prime Minister to request an extension beyond the October 31st deadline in order to avoid a no-deal. The second letter was signed, a letter that Johnson wanted to send, outlining his view - his "do or die" attitude towards an extension.

Tuesday evening was pivotal, with two key votes in the House of Commons. 

MPs first voted to move the legislation onto the next stage, in what was a win for Johnson. In essence, though, this vote only means that MPs wanted to further read into the bill, with many potential flashpoints ahead. 

The second vote was a blow for the Prime Minister, with MPs voting against the timetable, which would have pushed the deal through within under three days.

After losing this vote, Johnson said he was pausing his attempt to get the Brexit legislation approved, casting doubt over his desire to leave with a deal before October 31.

Johnson is awaiting a response from the European Council over whether an extension to January 31 will be granted. 

European Council President Donald Tusk and his European Parliament counterpart David Sassoli have both expressed their support for an extension to the end of January.

What are some of the key points of contention in the deal?

There are several key points of contention, but the key issue has been and remains to be Northern Ireland's relationship with the United Kingdom. 

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has been the key chess piece to these negotiations, although losing power slightly in the Johnson government compared to Theresa May's, where their 10 seats proved as a veto to key decisions.

The DUP has been highly vocal on social media expressing their concern of Johnson's deal with all MPs voting against it. They have been steadfast in calling for a deal that would not "threaten the integrity of the United Kingdom," aiming to maintain alignment with the rest of the UK.

The "backstop" within Theresa May's deal acted as an insurance policy to prevent a hard border between the North and the Republic of Ireland. In Johnson's deal, the insurance policy became a policy, where Northern Ireland would legally remain within the UK customs territory but adhere to EU customs rules. In practice, this will create a de facto border along the Irish Sea. Checks would take place in UK ports so that there would a seamless border on the island. This was a policy the DUP had wanted to avoid at all costs.

Value Added Tax (VAT) is also another issue for the DUP. If VAT hadn't been aligned on the island, it would create another type of border, with concerns raised that it would lead to smuggling but also that it would undermine the integrity of the Single Market. Johnson's deal will mean that Northern Ireland will remain aligned with EU VAT rules, with the UK collecting the tax. It is a possibility that the UK government would provide a rebate system for this.


Crucially, the deal gives "consent" to the Northern Irish Assembly. In four years, the Northern Irish Assembly will meet and to confirm "cross-community support" on the terms of trade as mentioned. Cross-community refers to members of the Republican and Unionist communities. If the Assembly votes against the terms, then there will be a two year period where a committee would be set up to solidify future arrangements.

The key issue with this plan is whether the Northern Irish Assembly could agree on the terms of trade. The government still has not been in place for over three years, having collapsed due to the "Cash for Ash" scandal - a botched energy scheme. Any attempts to reconvene the government has failed, with the stalemate continuing in arguably one of the most contentious times since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

What are the upcoming flashpoints?

The key question is that even if an extension is granted, will Johnson manage to get his deal passed the House of Commons? 

The Institute for Government think tank released their seven key flashpoints that Johnson will have to manoeuvre past in order to get a deal approved.

One of those is the possibility of amendments being made to the legislation in order to push for a fresh referendum, which is likely to be on whether to accept the deal or stay in the EU. 


Click on the player above as Seana Davis in The Cube explains more.

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