It now appears MPs must choose between Boris deal, no deal or revoke in the parliamentary vote on the deal on Saturday.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission President, has insisted that the EU will refuse to grant another Brexit extension.
It is not clear yet whether he is speaking on their behalf all the EU states, but if he is, it means MPs will effectively be faced with a choice between this deal and no deal. Or perhaps more unlikely, a vote to revoke Article 50.
Juncker was speaking to journalists on the red carpet for the press conference which he delivered with Boris Johnson.
“Anyway there will be no prolongation,” he said on the October 31 deadline.
“We have concluded a deal and so there is not an argument for further delay – it has to be done now.”
Asked if he would rule out an extension if Boris Johnson requested one, Juncker replied:
“I gave a brief doorstop with Boris Johnson earlier on half an hour ago, and I was ruling out that there will be any kind of prolongation.
“If we have a deal, we have a deal, and there is no need for prolongation. That is not only the British view, that is my view too.”
Asked if that meant he was officially ruling out a delay to Brexit, he added:
“Yes, we have a deal. So why should we have a prolongation?”
Asked what would happen, if as may have been expected, a majority of MPs vote against the deal, he replied:
“I am not in charge of the parliamentary affairs of Britain.”
This throws into disarray pronouncements from politicians across the political spectrum who have condemned the deal. The DUP are against the deal as they say it “rides a coach and horses” through the Good Friday Agreement and separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK in terms of customs. Even Nigel Farage today said he would rather see another referendum than this deal pass.
Did Johnson put pressure on EU to deny UK an extension to his deal?
It is still unclear why Juncker has ruled out extending Brexit negotiations, especially with more MPs than ever persuaded that a second referendum is preferable to Johnson’s flawed deal.
Whether Johnson’s negotiators have pressed on the EU to rule out further delay is yet to emerge. Juncker refused to be drawn on what Boris Johnson had said to him.
Would the EU now accept a request for a Brexit delay?
Whether any requested extension is granted is not down to the European Commission President – it requires the consent of the 27 remaining members of the European Council.
Commentators are cautioning that Juncker’s words do not necessarily reflect the views of all the EU27 were Boris Johnson to ask for a Brexit extension.
Sky News political correspondent Lewis Goodall says an EU source told him he was “100% certain EU27 would permit a delay.
He tweeted: “EU source says: “It’s not in his gift to rule it out, he is just defending the deal and saying one shouldn’t be needed…I am 100% certain EU27 would permit an extension if deal falls on Saturday.”
He added: “Have been pointed to his exact formulation of words: “This deal means there is no need for any kind of prolongation.” Which isn’t quite the same thing as ruling out extension. It’s just saying that with a deal, there shouldn’t be a need for one.
“Clearly that’s not to say this isn’t helpful for Number 10, it is. Shows Commission wants this done, no mean feat they’re working with Downing St given relations were previously so cold. But highly highly doubtful that if deal goes down it means no extension.”
BBC Europe correspondent Katya Adler also cautioned: “Jean Claude Juncker does not have legal power to rule out extension. It’s a member state decision. It’s hard to imagine 27 EU countries categorically ruling out an extension while at this summit … before they know if one might be necessary eg to get this deal passed”
But her colleague BBC Assistant Political Editor Norman Smith pointed out “I think he knew exactly what he was saying and its a big help for Team Johnson.”
Juncker will have been purposefully concentrating the minds of MPs on behalf of Johnson to get his deal through.
‘Sell out deal’
The Prime Minister is set to put a new deal to the House of Commons this weekend after protracted negotiations reached a conclusion today.
Jean Claude Juncker tweeted that the agreement is a “fair and balanced” one for the EU and UK, and a “testament to our commitment to find solutions”.
But it has received a rather frostier reception back in the UK.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that from what they can see, it seems the Prime Minister has negotiated “an even worse deal than Theresa May’s, which was overwhelmingly rejected.”
He said the proposals risk triggering a “race to the bottom on rights and protections”, adding a “sell-out deal won’t bring the country together”.
He criticised the deal for creating a customs border in the Irish sea – something Johnson had previously promised would not happen.
“As it stands we cannot support this deal,” the Labour leader told reporters in Brussels, adding that it did not seem to have the backing of “many of his allies on his own backbenches”.
Corbyn criticised “speculation” when asked about reports that his party could support the deal if it comes with a second referendum.
Nicola Sturgeon also ruled out her MPs in the SNP backing the deal, insisting it will mean Scotland alone is “treated unfairly” when the UK leaves the European Union.
Speaking to Sky News, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage insisted: “I would much rather we had an extension and a chance of a general election than accept this dreadful new EU treaty.”He warned: “I don’t think whatever is agreed tonight is going to pass on Saturday anyway.” Today he appeared to be backing a delay to Brexit after three years opposing an extension.
We may now see the Brexit Party, the DUP and hard Brexiteers in the Tory party coming out against Jean-Claude Juncker to demand a delay to Brexit.
Is this enough to help Johnson who has lost nearly every vote so far as PM?
Johnson’s battle to get the agreement approved by MPs intensified on Thursday when the DUP ruled out backing the deal.
Following days of intense negotiations, the PM announced that he had struck a “great new deal” shortly before heading to the key summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday.
But it must still be passed by Parliament, which has so far proved hostile to both Brexit and Boris Johnson, who has a unique record of losing nearly every vote so far as Prime Minister.
His key ally, the Democratic Unionist Party emphatically ruled out voting for the new deal, citing a series of objections over the integrity of the Union, the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland’s economy.
Johnson appeared to be directly appealing to Arlene Foster’s party at an earlier press conference alongside Mr Juncker, saying the deal allowed the UK to leave the bloc “whole and entire”.
He said the “fair” and “reasonable” agreement would protect the Irish peace process and allow the whole of the UK to take part in new free trade deals.
“I hope very much now, speaking of elected representatives, that my fellow MPs in Westminster do now come together to get Brexit done, to get this excellent deal over the line and deliver Brexit without any more delay,” he added.
The deal ‘drives a coach and horses’ through the Good Friday peace agreement
The DUP, which has been in close and regular talks with the PM, had criticised his effort for undermining the integrity of the union and being bad for Northern Ireland’s economy.
The deal also “drives a coach and horses” through the Good Friday peace agreement over the issue of consent, a strongly-worded statement from the party said.
“Following confirmation from the Prime Minister that he believes he has secured a ‘great new deal’ with the European Union the Democratic Unionist Party will be unable to support these proposals in Parliament,” it continued.
MPs are expected to hold a meaningful debate on the deal on Saturday after MPs on Thursday approved a motion to hold the first weekend sitting of Parliament in 37 years.
If Parliament does not vote for the agreement on Saturday, the PM faces an almighty clash over whether he will request a further Brexit delay from Brussels as he is compelled to under the Benn Act.
The stance of the DUP is particularly important because the party wields influence over some hardline Tory Brexiteers and Mr Johnson is far short of a majority in Parliament.
Announcing his achievement, the PM tweeted: “We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control, now Parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday so we can move on to other priorities like the cost of living, the NHS, violent crime and our environment.”
He insisted the deal allows the UK to leave the bloc “in two weeks”, just in the nick of time to satisfy his “do or die” commitment to leaving by the current October 31 deadline.
Mr Johnson said that the “anti-democratic” backstop contingency measure to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland had been abolished.
It proved a major sticking point for his predecessor Theresa May whose deal failed to pass the Commons three times.
“The people of Northern Ireland will be in charge of the laws that they live by, and, unlike the backstop, will have the right to end the special arrangement if they so choose,” the PM added.
But the DUP dug in over the prospect of a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, as well as the issues of consent regarding the suspended Stormont Assembly.
Another issue in the PM’s proposals was whether EU VAT rates would apply in Northern Ireland.
Mr Johnson needs to get a deal approved before the weekend if he is to avoid a major clash over asking for an extension to the current deadline.
The Benn Act passed by no-deal opponents compels him to ask Brussels for a delay to the end of January, but the PM has repeatedly ruled out taking this course of action.
He remains adamant on his stance, with a senior Government official saying the PM’s position is “new deal or no deal, but no delay”.
Getting the new deal approved appears to be an uphill challenge, but the EU’s no-delay threat could force some to back what would now appear to be the final offer.
The PM’s spokesman said Boris Johnson plans to hold a meaningful vote on the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration on Saturday.
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