Johnson seeks support for Northern Irish and Labor dissidents for Brexit deal

Photo by Jolan Wathelet on Unsplash

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returns from the EU summit in Brussels to London with a divorce agreement in the pocket between the United Kingdom and the European Union. He will now have to convince the House of Commons to accept the agreement. If that succeeds, then the European Parliament will also have to give its blessing.

According to Brexit coordinator and MEP Guy Verhofstadt, what has now been agreed is more or less the first proposal submitted by the EU to the British three years ago.

Verhofstadt told the VRT that there is a big difference with the earlier agreement that Johnson's predecessor Theresa May eventually stipulated but was not given by the British parliament: the time pressure. According to Verhofstadt, due to time constraints, a number of red lines for Europe have not been crossed: the soft border with Northern Ireland and the preservation of the European single market.

Only when the agreement has been ratified by the British Parliament will the European Parliament discuss it. According to him, Europe is not taking any risk by starting a procedure now and then being confronted with a British parliament that does not approve it.

Boris Johnson is by no means certain of a parliamentary majority. His coalition partner, the Northern Irish DUP, does not support the agreement, nor does the liberal LibDem opposition and the anti-European Brexit party. Johnson can only find a majority if 21 Conservative party members (who were expelled from him last month) support his proposal, as well as some 15 Labor opposition members.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has already spoken out against the agreement, but there are also parliamentarians in his party who want to get out of EU anyway. Possibly those Labor dissidents will help Boris Johnson to his much needed majority.

Verhofstadt still thinks it is possible that the British will leave the European Union on 31 October, but then they have to agree in advance on Saturday. He does not exclude the possibility of an additional session of the European Parliament even in that case, "because the details of the statute of European citizens still have to be examined thoroughly."

If it doesn't work out in London on Saturday, then again, different scenarios are open. European Commission President Juncker is not looking forward to a new postponement, but European President Donald Tusk would like to build in another option.