Millennium Post

Nearing a conclusion?

As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered the first part of his Brexit policy, he has managed to strike a deal with the European Union. The next big question is if he could manage the numbers to have their Parliament reach a conclusion. The Parliamentary hurdle was one that tripped up his predecessor, Theresa May. British negotiators engaged with their European Union counterparts this week while another set of talks went on in London concerning members of Parliament and their support to Prime Minister Johnson. With respect to the requisite numbers, the target that must be achieved is 320—once non-voting MPs are accounted for, Johnson will need 320 MPs on his side to win any vote in the House of Commons. The last time Theresa May worked her way for the deal in March, she had the support of 279 Conservatives. It is very likely that they will back a Johnson deal too, but not without some problems. Johnson expelled a group of MPs from the party in September after they backed legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit. Amber Rudd, who resigned in sympathy, joined them. Another member to leave the party is Nick Boles, who quit the Conservatives earlier this year for frustration at the Brexit deadlock. That leaves a question mark against 19 former Tories who previously backed May's deal. Besides this number, one deal-backing Conservative, Chris Davies, lost his seat to a Liberal Democrat in a recall election. These calculations leave Johnson short of 61 votes to have the Parliament pass the deal. It is perceived that this proposition is difficult but feasible, however, with the risks involved, there looms a question of whether the Prime Minister might lose some support, such as among those Tories who voted for a deal in March and regretted their decision later. Another possibility is that when May was Prime Minister, she said a Brexit deal that split Northern Ireland from Great Britain was one that could not be acceptable to any Prime Minister. Now, as a former Prime Minister her view stands negated if Boris Johnson goes ahead on his path. It is said that May will almost certainly stay loyal, but then Johnson did make her life very difficult, so it's hard to be sure.

The proposed UK-EU Brexit deal is one that comes after years of divisive and so far inconclusive discussions with the European Union, including successive days of late-night talks that marked this week. Former Prime Minister Theresa May had struck a deal with the EU in December 2018 but Parliament rejected it three times. The new agreement is different from May's rejected deal on various accounts. Since the very beginning of negotiations over two years ago, a major hurdle to the deal has been devising a way to keep goods and people coming uninterrupted across the border between EU member Ireland and the United Kingdom's Northern Ireland—the only land border between the UK and EU. An open border is necessary for the regional economy and also underpins Northern Ireland's peace process. The issue of the Irish border has thus been so crucial and May's rejected deal had the backstop policy that kept Northern Ireland in harmony with EU trade and customs rules to eliminate the need for border checks. But Brexit-supporting British lawmakers opposed it on the grounds that it would hamper Britain's ability to strike new trade deals around the world. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on the contrary, has insisted that the entire UK—that is to say Northern Ireland included—must leave the bloc's customs union, and this is most likely to make border checks and tariffs inevitable. The proposed deal solves the problem by keeping Northern Ireland aligned with the rules of the EU single market for goods, meaning that border checks will not be needed, and in the process, customs checks at the Irish border will also be eliminated. Instead, customs checks will be carried out and tariffs levied by Britain on goods entering Northern Ireland that are destined for the EU. This to the effect of having a customs border in the Irish Sea—something the British government long said it would not allow. There has also been a compromise the EU's end by means of allowing Northern Ireland special access to its single market. And the deal gives Northern Ireland a say over the rules, a feature that was missing in May's previous rejected agreement. After four years, the Northern Ireland Assembly will vote on whether to continue the arrangement or end it. The section on Northern Ireland was the element of stark contrast between the deals of the two Prime Ministers while most other elements from May's proposal are retained. The step ahead for Johnson now is to persuade the majority of British lawmakers to support the draft agreement if he is to take Britain out of the EU on October 31—as he has promised to deliver. This will be the Prime Minister's last chance to get MPs to approve the deal before the Brexit deadline.

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