Stefan Rousseau

As it happened: Focus turns to House of Commons after last-minute Brexit deal endorsed by EU leaders

The EU27 leaders have backed the revised deal – but the DUP is still saying ‘no’.

LAST UPDATE | Oct 17th 2019, 10:43 PM

WE’VE HAD SEVERAL Brexit D-days already – today was another.

Perhaps snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, the European Union and UK announced a new deal had been struck this morning, just hours before the start of an EU summit in Brussels. 

It had looked like the DUP had scuppered the chances of a deal at the last-minute.

Here are the main points from today:

  • The UK and EU agreed a Brexit deal after intense negotiations.
  • The deal’s passage through the House of Commons is not guaranteed with the DUP saying it does not support it.
  • Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that backstop has been “replaced” and he described it as “a good deal for Ireland”.
  • The deal has been endorsed by the remaining EU27 leaders in Brussels. 
  • Attention now turns to the House of Commons, which will sit on Saturday to vote on the deal. 

Good morning, Rónan Duffy here. 

Well, well, well. 

Brexit has brought the art of doing your homework at the last minute to a new artform but this really takes the biscuit. 

After days of false starts, we have received confirmation of a deal between the UK and EU literally as leaders began arriving at the EU summit.

Here are the pertinent tweets:

New of the deal comes after the DUP this morning rejected the revised agreement’s proposals for customs and Stormont consent. 

The DUP told that they had no statement  after this latest development but referred us back to the comments issued this morning.

Party leader Arlene Foster is expected to comment on the deal later today. 

The DUP’s position perhaps suggest that Johnson is pressing ahead with the putting a vote to parliament without the guarantee of DUP support. 

Johnson’s government does not have majority support in parliament and the DUP’s support is crucial for any vote. 

The House of Commons will sit on a weekend this Saturday for the first time in almost four decades and and it now looks like MPs will have a deal to consider.

This is the DUP’s position by the way, as laid out by leader Arlene Foster MLP and her deputy Nigel Dodds MP.

The consent issues the DUP refers to are the mechanisms by which Stormont would have control over Northern Ireland’s position within the customs union in the case of a Northern Ireland-only backstop. 

Financial Times Brussels correspondent Mehreen Khan has picked out the important part of the draft agreement about how Stormont will have a say.

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EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has begun his press conference confirming the deal 

“This text should provide legal certainty in every area,” he says.

Barnier says that this is the case for EU citizens in the UK who he says were “always the priority” in negotiations. 

This agreement should provide legal certainty in every area where Brexit like any separation creates uncertainty and in particular and first and foremost for European citizens in the UK and British citizens living in one of our member states. These citizens have always been and will remain our priority.

Barnier says that the UK had sought to reopen the negotiations on the issue over Northern Ireland. He says talks have been at times difficult. 

He says that Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK’s customs territory but will also remain as an entry point for the EU’s single market.

“All applicable procedures for goods will take place at the point of entry for Northern Ireland and not across the island. For this purpose, UK officials will be in charge of applying the UK’s customs code in Northern Ireland”

On customs duties, he says:

“Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK’s customs territory, it will therefore benefit from the UK’s future trade policy,” he adds. 

After four years, Northern Ireland will decide by simple majority whether to continue applying the rules or not. This democratic support is a cornerstone of our newly-agreed approach, says Barnier.

This in effect means that a simple majority in Northern Ireland has usurped a DUP veto on consent.

Addressing the fact that we have been here before, Barnier says:

There should be no surprises here. Much of the final text can also be found in the agreement that was put forward almost a year ago. The priority given to citizens rights……but there are some new elements on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Asked about the fact there was previous deals put to the House of Commons and rejected before, Barnier gives a longer answer but doesn’t want to go into it too much.

“What do you want me to say? I’m the EU’s chief negotiator, I never wanted to give any judgement on British political procedures,” he says.

“We have removed the backstop and we have replaced it with a new approach,” Barnier says. 

If Johnson succeeds in getting the deal through parliament, it will likely be because of this wording. 

For what it’s worth, Barnier says that Johnson is confident of getting the deal through parliament. 

Whatever about Johnson’s confidence Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said the new deal should be rejected by MPs.

“It seems the prime minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May,” Corbyn said in a statement.

It had been suggested that up to 27 Labour MPs eager to leave would be willing to vote for a deal. We’ll have to see how that plays out. 

Here’s the full text of the agreement for all those who fancy it.


In summation:

“The revised Protocol provides a legally operational solution that avoids a hard border on the island of Ireland, protects the all-island economy and the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement in all its dimensions and safeguards the integrity of the Single Market. This solution responds to the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland with the aim of protecting peace and stability.”

More from Corbyn, this time speaking to reporters.

He again confirmed Labour would be voting and against the deal and was asked about whether he will move a motion of no confidence against Johnson 

“This weekend is the time to discuss the agreement that he has apparently reached at the summit and I think parliament will vote on that this weekend. All other issues are for next week,” he said. 

During his press conference, Barnier was asked about what will happen if the Northern Ireland Assembly at some stage rejects the arrangement in a vote.

He said there will be a two year cooling off period and they’ll work on new measure to ensure the single market is protected.

He said the members of the Assembly every four years will “bear the responsibility of maintaining the system or breaking it off”.

“We now have to place trust in the system and those who will be managing it,” he said.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been arriving at the summit in Brussels. 

He had no substantive comments to make to the media as he arrived, saying he first wanted to attend the council meeting. reporter Gráinne Ní Aodha captured a video of his brief interaction with the press. 


Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney is taking Leader’s Question in the Dáil. He welcomes the developments but would “urge caution”.

He says it’s a big step forward but a lot needs to happen before we have certainty. The deal will ensure there are no checks on the island of Ireland, Coveney says. 

Coveney says the backstop “has changed” but that the government had always been open to an alternative that did the same job.

“This is a deal that is worth supporting because it protects Irish interests,” he adds.  

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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has reacted to the deal confirming, as if it were needed, that her SNP party will vote against the deal

“While there remains uncertainty over whether this proposed deal will pass, what is absolutely clear is that it would take Scotland out of the European Union, out of the single market and out of the customs union against the overwhelming democratic will of the people of Scotland,” she said.

Scotland did not vote for Brexit in any form, and SNP MPs will not vote for Brexit in any form — especially when it is clear that Scotland, alone of the nations of the UK, is being treated unfairly.

Interestingly, Sturgeon notes the unfairness as she sees it that Scotland does not get to be treated differently as Northern ireland does.

“We support efforts to ensure peace and stability on the island of Ireland, in line with the Good Friday Agreement, which must be respected.

At the same time, it cannot be right that Scotland alone is facing an outcome it did not vote for — that is democratically unacceptable and makes a mockery of claims that the UK is in any way a partnership of equals. The Brexit envisaged by Boris Johnson is one which sees a much looser relationship with the EU when it comes to issues like food standards environmental protections and workers’ rights. That is not the future that I or my government envisage for Scotland.

“And in the circumstances which now prevail it is clearer than ever that the best future for Scotland is one as an equal, independent European nation. That is a choice I am determined to ensure is given to the people of Scotland.”

Michelle Hennessy here taking the reins of the liveblog from Rónán for a while. 

There is reaction to the new deal coming in from all quarters, but we have yet to hear from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

He arrived at the summit in Brussels earlier this morning and has been meeting with the Greek prime minister.

Varadkar told reporters on his way in that he would speak to them after the council meeting. 

Michael Gove has given MPs an ultimatum – it’s this deal or the UK crashes out of the EU on 31 October, Benn Act be damned. 

“I wouldn’t want to be an MP in a constituency which had voted to leave, going back to my constituents after this deal had been put forward and saying ‘Do you know what, I didn’t back it and the only alternatives now are staying in the EU or leaving without a deal’,” he said.

“I just do not think that would be a credible view and I know lots of colleagues agree with that.”

And we have a new statement from the DUP…

The party says it will be “unable to support these proposals in parliament”.

“These proposals are not, in our view, beneficial to the economic well-being of Northern Ireland and they undermine the integrity of the Union. Our main route of trade on an East –West basis will be subject to rules of the European Union Customs Union, notwithstanding that Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK Customs territory.

All goods would be subject to a customs check regime regardless of their final destination. The default position, even for goods travelling from one part of our country to another, is that they are considered under the EU Customs code unless otherwise agreed. We recognise that only those goods ultimately destined for the Republic of Ireland would be subject to tariffs but the reality remains that the EU would have a veto on which goods would be exempt and which would not under the Joint Committee arrangements. This is not acceptable within the internal borders of the United Kingdom.

The DUP said consumers in Northern Ireland will “face the prospect of increased costs, and potentially less choice due to checks being implemented in order to facilitate the European Union”.

“Throughout all the discussions on these issues we have been clear that Northern Ireland should not be subjected to administrative burdens which will be entrenched for the future,” the statement said.

On VAT, the DUP says Northern Ireland will again be bound into arrangements that the rest of the UK will not. 

“There is a real danger that over time Northern Ireland will start to diverge across VAT and customs and without broad support from the democratic representatives of the people of Northern Ireland.”

The party says “some progress” has been made in recognising the issue of consent.

However it says the elected representatives of Northern Ireland “will have no say on whether Northern Ireland should enter these arrangements”.

The government has departed from the principle that these arrangements must be subject to the consent of both unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland. These arrangements would be subject to a rolling review but again the principles of the Belfast Agreement on consent have been abandoned in favour of majority rule on this single issue alone.

What the party is referring to here is the arrangement by which the Assembly in Northern Ireland will vote every four years on whether or not to maintain the arrangement with the EU.

This will be decided by a simple majority vote and there will be no option for a veto, as there usually would be in these types of votes in Stormont.

“These arrangements will become the settled position in these areas for Northern Ireland. This drives a coach and horses through the professed sanctity of the Belfast Agreement.”

The DUP says it believes these arrangements would not be in Northern Ireland’s long term interests.

It adds: “Saturday’s vote in parliament on the proposals will only be the start of a long process to get any Withdrawal Agreement Bill through the House of Commons.”

The Taoiseach has made his first comments on the new deal. He says we have a “unique solution” for Northern Ireland that respects its “unique history and geography”. 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker are making a statement now – you can watch it live here.

“We have a deal,” Juncker starts, adding the deal means there is no need for a prolongation. 

He describes it as a fair deal.

“There will be no border on the island of Ireland and the single market will be protected,” he says. 

“The deal is not about us, the deal is about people and peace,” Juncker adds, as Johnson nods in agreement. 

Boris Johnson said the deal means they can deliver “a real Brexit that achieves our objectives” and the UK can leave the EU on 31 October.

“A agree very much with what you said about protecting the Peace Process on the island of Ireland and in Northern Ireland,” he tells Juncker.

“It means we can take, together, as a single United Kingdom, decisions about our future – about our laws, about our borders, our money and how we want to run the UK. And those decisions will be taken in the UK by elected representatives of the people of the UK. And I hope very much now speaking of elected representatives that my fellow MPs in Westminister do now come together to get Brexit done, to get this excellent deal over the line and to deliver Brexit without any more delay so we can focus on the priorities of the British people…”

As Johnson finishes speaking, eager reporters begin bombarding the two men with questions. Juncker chastises them – he has one final thing to say:

“I have to say that I’m happy about the deal but I’m sad about Brexit. Have a good time.”

belgium-eu-brexit Varadkar arrives at the meeting with Minister for European Affairs, Helen McEntee. PA Images PA Images

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been speaking to reporters as he arrived in Brussels.

Varadkar said that deal is a “good deal for Ireland and also for the wider European Union”. 

Asked about concessions made on his side on issues like the timescale for the backstop and the ability of the Northern Ireland Assembly to vote to leave it, Varadkar said:

I want there to be a deal, I want there to be a deal that allows the UK to leave in an orderly fashion, obviously I regret that they’re leaving but we accept that they are leaving. But I also want to ensure that our objects have been achieved.   

He added: “We have an agreement today, I think it’s a good agreement for Ireland and also for the wider European Union. I’ll be recommending today to the European Council that we endorse that and hopefully the House of Commons will decide to support it at the weekend.”

Asked about comments from the British side the Backstop has been “abolished”, Varadkar said it had been “replaced”, echoing the wording earlier from Barnier.

“The backstop has been replaced, it’s been replaced by a new solution for Northern Ireland, recognising its unique history and geography but that new solution does what we need it to do, avoids a hard border between north and south, protects the all-island economy, protects the single market and our place in it and also, and we were happy to accept this, takes account of the democratic wishes of the people of Northern Ireland.”

Asked what happens if Stormont decides in four years to leave the customs arrangement, Varadkar refused to be drawn. 

“I think we’re a long way from that and those hypotheticals but as I said one thing we were prepared to accept to get to this point, to get to a revised Withdrawal Agreement, was that we would respect the views of the people of Northern Ireland as expressed in the Northern Ireland assembly,” he said. 

Also arriving at the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the Brexit agreement and suggested it could be approved by sceptical British lawmakers.

Macron said he was “reasonably confident it can be ratified by a vote of the British parliament”.

The French president has been among the leaders most keen to see the process brought to a conclusion and has been said to be wary of the UK getting another extension. 

There are suggestions that Johnson may seek to have EU leaders declare that no extension would be granted, putting greater pressure on MPs to vote for the deal. 

This would seem unlikely however and at his doorstep Varadkar would not be drawn on whether another extension would be granted. 

The reaction to the deal among unionists has been far from positive.

The DUP confirmed it will vote against Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal in parliament saying it risked ‘the integrity of the union’.

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann was more dramatic about it:

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is asked whether the EU would rule out another extension. He basically answered that it’s not a question that needs asking because a deal is in place. 

“I gave a doorstep with Boris Johnson at the Berlaymont a half an hour ago and I was ruling out that there would be any kind of prolongation. If we have a deal we have a deal, there is no need for any kind of prolongation. That’s not only the British view that’s my own view too.”

From our political correspondent Christina Finn on the political reaction in Ireland: 

The mood in Leinster House today is that Boris Johnson just doesn’t have the numbers to get this deal passed on Saturday. One Labour source says the new deal could have a negative impact on workers in particular, which is of concern to Labour in the UK. This point was echoed by TD Joan Collins in the Dáil during Leaders’ Questions.

On the issue of our own ‘no-deal Brexit Budget’ – while some in Fianna Fail have said Fine Gael might find a few bob down the couch to start rolling out some more investment promises (particularly as we enter election-mode) another source states that the budget is what it is.

If there is a no-deal, government will have to come back to the House and give more details on the support packages, but if there is a deal, the government won’t have to borrow the money it thought it would have to.


Of all the takes you’re going to see today, this is perhaps the least likely. 

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage is responding to the below comments from Jean-Claude Juncker, in which the EU President seemed to say an extension was unnecessary. 

Farage criticises Junker for ‘overriding the Benn Act’. Yes, that’s the act which forces Boris Johnson to seek an extension to avoid a no-deal exit. 

Not exactly something you’d be expecting Farage to defend.

But sure look.

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Speaking of the Benn Act, Labour’s Hilary Benn MP has told Sky News that he would vote for the deal if it went before the House of Commons with a promise that there would be a second referendum. 

If the deal is defeated on Saturday the responsibility comes back onto parliament because we can’t keep delaying things and that is why there’s a growing number of MPs who say there is a way to resolve this, that will give us a decision, and that is to take the deal back to the people in a confirmatory referendum. Because then the British public would vote one way or another, to vote for the deal which Boris Johnson thinks is a good deal, and I don’t, or to vote for remain.

“And in those circumstances if the EU knew we were going to have a confirmatory referendum they absolutely would grant time for that to take place.”

Benn’s comments underline that the vote on Saturday is really where it’s all at now. 

On that, the talk from among Irish politicians in Leinster House is that numbers don’t look good for getting the deal through Westminster, despite the assurances Johnson has given EU leaders. 

People are pretty doubtful of those assurances here in Leinster House today.


As one person told reporter Christina Finn: “There’s a couple of days of mischief in Westminster.”

On the issue of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s consent over the new ‘replaced’ backstop, one government source has told Christina Finn has said that there has been “some misreporting on the matter”.

Here’s what they said:

The idea is that after the two year extension, which will go up to 2020 (or possibly another two years) the Northern Ireland will be able to vote on whether to extend the arrangement or scrap it. A majority vote will carry. So, if the vote was 48 to 50 to extend – it would extend by four years, bringing us to 2024.

The same vote is going to be counted in different way, so if you can see in the vote, both the nationalists and unionists voted for an extension of the arrangements, then it’ll be eight years. The deal sets out that this would be the same vote, so there is no choosing which type of vote to have.

If it’s a clear majority and they both carry for an extension it will just continue on for eight years. And if they choose to leave it they’ll go to two years to figure it out, so the earliest that they could they could leave is 2026.

It’s complicated but we’re working on a more precise explainer on how the whole issue of consent will work. 

Here’s an example of how and why listening to the markets can be misleading. 

After a wild day, sterling ended the day pretty much where it started. 

Starting the day at valued at $1.2834, the value of sterling soared to within a whisker of $1.30, striking five-month peaks, before slowly going back where it began. 

Often used as an instantaneous barometer of sentiment, it’s much better to take a longer-term view. Or even just waiting until the end of the day.

Good evening – Daragh Brophy here taking over liveblog duties for the rest of the day from Rónán Duffy.

Just time for quick check on what’s happening right now:

  • Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has been meeting with Simon Coveney in Dublin to discuss the Brexit deal – she’ll be speaking to the media shortly and we’ll bring you her comments. 
  • Donald Tusk and Jean Claude Juncker are due to give a joint press conference in Brussels at 5.30pm (Irish time). We’ll cover that as it happens. 
  • Meanwhile Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin is also in Brussels where he told reporters, including our own Gráinne Ní Aodha, that he think an extension should be granted to the UK if it’s requested. 

An ‘Open Letter to Business’ from Boris Johnson has just landed in our inbox from the UK Government press office. 

According to Johnson, the deal struck today provides the basis of a new relationship with the EU “based on free trade and friendly cooperation”. 

Airing his ‘getting it done’ mantra one more time the PM insists, “we can now get Brexit done and leave the EU in two weeks’ time without disruption and in a friendly way”. 


Getting Brexit done may be … well, easier said than done.

Experts and analysts in the UK have been crunching the numbers on what needs to happen for the deal to get through the House of Commons.

Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent Matthew Goodwin has been looking at some of the ways things could play out this Saturday. 

Tusk, Juncker, Barnier and Varadkar are speaking to the media now in Brussels. 

Tusk begins proceedings by asking, rhetorically, what has changed between yesterday and today. Firstly, he says, the revised deal has been positively assessed by Ireland. 

Tusk says the EU would not have forced a deal that was viewed as unfavourable by Dublin. 

“Without the Taoiseach it would not have been possible to reach an agreement today,” Juncker says. 

All in all I’m happy, relieved that we reached a deal but I’m sad that Brexit is happening.

Varadkar: I’ve learned two things about the EU – the strength and unity of the European Union: Europe when it acts as one can be a powerful force for good in the world. Also as the leader of a small nation I’ve felt enormous solidarity from our European partners – the Brexit process has shown that the union really is a union. 

He says Brexit is like saying goodbye to an old friend going on a journey – we wish them well and there will always be a “place at the table for them”. 

New deal is a “unique solution” says Taoiseach. It’s different to the backstop which was always intended to be temporary… The new protocol is more likely to be used but the consent factor for the people of Northern Ireland makes it different, Varadkar says. 

Ending his comments he reiterates that there will be no hard border and that the single market will be protected. 

“Now the decision moves to the House of Commons and the European Parliament.” He says he hopes they ratify it “so we can all move forward to the next phase of negotiations”. 

Barnier: I want to underline one point, while the subject matter in the negotiating room may have been technical what has mattered above all has been the people in Ireland and Northern Ireland. 

Peace has been the priority for him and his team throughout the process, he’s saying, essentially. 

Asked what will happen if the House of Commons cannot endorse the deal this weekend, Tusk says it is “our intention to work towards ratification”. 

It is the clear decision of the 27 member states to back the deal, he says. 

“Now the ball is back in the court of the UK.” 

He says if there is a request for an extension “I will consult with member states to see how to react”. 

Asked if he has a message for the 48% of the electorate who voted to Remain in the EU, Juncker has a short, pithy answer: 

I would like to say they were right. 

Much laughter in the briefing room (although Tusk looked for a second like he was going over to have a quiet word with Juncker). 

After Barnier takes a final question about fishing rights, that’s the end of the press conference. 

It’s hard to escape Tusk in Brussels at the moment, it seems: 

Boris Johnson has also been speaking to the media. 

He began his press conference by saying there was a “very good case” to back the deal and that he didn’t see any reason for delay. 

He says he doesn’t see any benefit to be gained from an extension. 


He’s not saying much about Commons proceedings on Saturday other than to say that he thinks MPs should back the deal and that it’s a “big and important vote”. 

He dodges a question about whether the 21 Tory rebels who lost the whip will be allowed back into the parliamentary party before the weekend. 

Asked about the DUP’s comments today, he simply repeats that he thinks the deal is worth backing and says MPs should study it. 

The “Get Brexit Done” mantra also makes another appearance. 

He didn’t say all that much frankly, and was reluctant to get into any detail on what might happen in the Commons this weekend and whether he has the votes to get the deal through.  

brexit Stefan Rousseau Stefan Rousseau

This is what the Taoiseach had to say about the deal and how the backstop has changed in that press conference earlier: 


What we have here today is a revised agreement. The Backstop has been replaced with a new solution, a new protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland.

It is a unique solution – one that recognises the unique history and geography of Northern Ireland. It’s different from the backstop, the backstop was never intended to be used – was only to be temporary unless and until it was superseded by a new solution – and was to be a sort of insurance policy, and this solution is different.

It’s more likely to be used, to come into force and possibly could become permanent but only with the consent of the elected representatives of Northern Ireland choosing to continue this arrangement into the future.

There will be, as a consequence of this agreement, a transition period running at least until the end of 2020 but extendable until the end of 2022, in which nothing will change thus giving certainty to citizens and businesses in Ireland in Britain, and also across the European Union, and the new solution kicks in for a four year period after that. And when that period ends the decision will lie with the Northern Ireland Assembly as to whether they want it to continue or not. 

There’ll be regulatory alignment on goods so that any checks that will happen will happen at the ports, and a customs arrangement that allows Northern Ireland to stay in the UK customs territory. But it’s organised in such a way that allows them to benefit from any trade deals that the United Kingdom might do. But still, there will be no tariffs on trade between North and South, and no checks along the land border, which is crucial from our point of view.

But above all, what I can say today is that our objectives as Ireland and as Europe have been met: citizens’ rights are protected, those of EU citizens living in the UK and also UK citizens living in the European Union, we have a financial settlement, there’ll be no hard border between North and South, the all-island economy will continue to develop, and North-South cooperation as envisaged by the Good Friday Agreement continue.

We secured the integrity of the single market and the Common Travel Area will stay in place. 

For those reasons, earlier I was able to recommend that this agreement, that this treaty be endorsed by the European Council, and that has been unanimously. 

So now the decision moves it goes on to the House of Commons and the European Parliament for them to consider this treaty, this agreement and hope sincerely will ratify it so we can all move on to the next phase of relations. 

Some details on what’s expected to happen in the Commons on Saturday from ITV’s political correspondent: 


The DUP’s Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds have been speaking to the media this evening – they’re making it clear the party is not going to vote for the deal in the Commons this Saturday. 

Foster told Sky News that Johnson has been under “incredible pressure” since the passing of the Benn Act, which requires the prime minister to ask for an extension if there is no deal by this Saturday. 

She said the PM had been “desperate” to get a deal over the line. 

The DUP leadership put out a negative-sounding statement this morning before the last minute deal was announced, presumably in the hope of garnering further concessions. 

But in the wake of the 11am announcement confirming the UK was going ahead with the deal, the Northern party’s response turned into a full-throated ‘NO’

“This drives a coach and horses through the professed sanctity of the Belfast Agreement,” their statement earlier said

So … whatever happened to the backstop anyway? 

It’s been replaced in the new version of the Brexit deal, and this new protocol, according to the Taoiseach, is “more likely to be used, to come into force and possibly could become permanent – but only with the consent of the elected representatives of Northern Ireland choosing to continue this arrangement into the future”.‘s Stephen McDermott explains all in this piece


Here’s what the leaders have been eating in Brussels tonight (read what you like into these menu choices): 

What does the new deal say about consent and why aren’t the DUP happy? 

Our political correspondent Christina Finn has been looking at the new mechanisms designed to give Stormont a say on Brexit… 

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We’re ending tonight’s live coverage – but we’ll be back with another liveblog on Saturday (if not before) as MPs debate the deal in the House of Commons – possibly late into the night.

It’s been a day of breakthroughs, but the Brexit saga is far from over – indeed, even this current chapter still has a fair way to go.

There is a real risk that MPs won’t agree the deal on Saturday, meaning Johnson will be forced to ask the EU to delay Brexit once again.

ITV’s political editor Robert Peston reckons the vote this weekend will be closer than many people think.

“Around 18 or 19 of the Tory rebel exiles will vote for it, subject to a Letwin-ish amendment that the Benn Act applies until the whole of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill is law,” he wrote in a blog post this evening.

“Boris Johnson will see that amendment as holding the feet to the flame of the Brexit Spartans [hardcore Brexiteers who have consistently voted against the Withdrawal Agreement in the past].

“He won’t hate it, whatever his public position. Because the ERG Spartans will fear if they vote against the deal and the WAB [Withdrawal Agreement Bill], that Brexit delay and no Brexit will follow.”

Over at Sky News, they reckon the PM is just four votes shy…

At the Financial Times, they’re putting the count at 318 in favour.

Stand by for an “aggressive charm offensive” from Johnson tomorrow.

Good night.

And don’t have nightmares.

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