Last week Prime Minister Boris Johnson on behalf of UK Government agreed a new Brexit Withdrawal Agreement (WA) with the European Union. This meant that Boris Johnson actually got the EU to open the previous WA, to change the agreement and to remove the backstop – all things that previously was said impossible to do.
The national legislation for the deal, the Withdrawal Agreement Implementation Bill (WAB) was presented to the House of Commons earlier this week and for the first time was a Brexit Withdrawal Agreement approved by Parliament, winning 329-299. However the time table for the implementation of the WAB was voted down. This means that UK does not have time enough to leave the EU on the 31 October with a deal. UK can still leave this date with No-Deal.
The Telegraph wrote after the voting that “The Remainers live on and will now fight a more disingenuous battle to undermine the Agreement, using the delay they have engineered to amend and weaken it. But something serious has changed: the EU is no longer allied with them. It now wants to work with the Johnson government to get this very deal over the line. It is not prepared to discuss more demands and more compromises. Having re-opened the May Withdrawal Agreement (as it said it never would), it will not consider doing it again. This really is the end ". They are certainly right about the last statement. This is the deal.
Last weekend the Prime Minister was forced by the previously approved Benn Act to send a letter to EU demanding a delay due to the Parliament process, however he also made it clear that this was not his will or what he and his Government wants.
Today the European Union will likely answer that a delay is granted to let UK finalize the legal ratification process. Of the new Withdrawal Agreement
Yesterday evening PM Johnson sent a public letter to the opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn. In the letter the Prime Minister explains two different options for the way forward:
- A short technical delay/extension to 15 or 30 November 2019
In this option the PM writes that he expects all MPs to make sure that the WA is ratified in time to avoid a no-deal situation.
- A longer flexible extension to 31 January 2020
In this scenario the PM proposes a fast ratification process and a national election on December 12.
So the Brexit saga continues, but the interesting thing is that a deal has now proven to be the most likely scenario going forward. A deal that would grant us all a transition period to the 31 December 2020 to further prepare for a new world where United Kingdom has left the European Union.
The new WA agreement keeps NI in the UK Customs territory and customs union, while keeping convergence with ROI/EU for four years. The Irish border can remain open and the needed Customs administration, checks and controls will be handled with alternative arrangements away from the border, in some cases in the ports. How this will be done in practice will be decided by a Joint Committee of experts. I can say that some of the public discussions around the amount of checks and controls needed - in my professional opinion - have been heavily exaggerated. I think this is a doable solution, it can work. I do understand the worry in NI about this proposal, but I am convinced that there are technical solutions within the framework of international standards and the EU Union Customs Code (UCC) to make this considerably less disturbing than what has been talked about in the public domain.
There is now hope for a deal.
Lars Karlsson, CEO and MD KGH Global Consulting
Former Director World Customs Organization
Former Director Swedish Customs
Alternative Arrangements Commission Technical Panel Member
Author of the report “Smart Borders 2.0/2.1 Avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland” for the European Parliaments Constitutional Committee