The United Kingdom and the European Union have agreed a Brexit deal in the final hours of negotiations, keeping British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s hopes of taking the country out of the bloc on Oct. 31 alive.
Announcing the decision on Thursday morning, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, said it was a “fair and balanced” agreement.
Meanwhile, the prime minister said it was a “great new deal that takes back control” and he urged British MPs to vote for it.
The leaders of the EU will be asked to formally rubber-stamp the agreement at the two-day summit in Brussels, which begins Thursday.
British MPs are then expected to be asked to approve the deal in an emergency Commons sitting on Saturday.
But Johnson’s chances of winning the knife-edge vote were dealt a blow earlier Thursday morning when Arlene Foster, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader, said she could not yet back his plan.
Following the announcement of a deal, the DUP said it was still not onboard.
“Has the EU changed its mind since 7 a.m.? You have our statement,” a party source told HuffPost U.K.
The DUP is digging in over the prospect of a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K., as well as the issues of consent regarding the suspended Stormont Assembly in Northern Ireland.
Another major issue in the prime minister’s proposals are whether EU Value Added Tax (VAT) rates would apply in Northern Ireland.
The DUP is seen as having significant influence over the stance of hardline Tory Brexiteers in the European Research Group (ERG) and hence are crucial in getting any deal approved by British parliament.
However, on Wednesday night, ERG chairman and self-styled “Brexit hardman” Steve Baker signalled that his group could give its backing to the agreement.
Without the support of the DUP’s 10 MPs and a number of Tory Brexit purists, Johnson would need to rely on some Labour MPs defying Jeremy Corbyn and voting with the government to get the Brexit deal across the finish line.
A group of 19 Labour backbenchers have indicated they are willing to vote for a deal.
Corbyn said Thursday the agreement hammered out by the prime minister was an “even worse deal” than the one reached by Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May.
“These proposals risk triggering a race to the bottom on rights and protections; putting food safety at risk, cutting environmental standards and workers’ rights, and opening up our NHS to a takeover by U.S. private corporations,” he said, referring to the U.K.’s health-care system.
“This sell-out deal won’t bring the country together and should be rejected. The best way to get Brexit sorted is to give the people the final say in a public vote.”
On Wednesday, Johnson told the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers that his situation was like climbing Mount Everest.