(Title Image: UK Parliament under Creative Commons Licence BY-NC-2.0)
During an extraordinary Saturday sitting of the UK House of Commons on 19th October 2019, MPs voted by 322-306 in favour of an amendment by Conservative Oliver Letwin MP, which aims to delay the approval of the recently renegotiated Brexit deal until all of the necessary legislation has passed the UK Parliament.
Legislation to enshrine the new Withdrawal Agreement in UK law is set to be debated today (22nd October 2019).
Under the “Benn Act”, the Prime Minister is legally obliged to request a delay to Brexit now that a deal has failed to be approved as of 19th October – but it’s unclear as of yet whether he intends to comply with that law, maintaining his position that the UK will leave the EU on October 31st 2019.
The new Withdrawal Agreement is largely that same as that negotiated by Boris Johnson’s predecessor, Theresa May, which was rejected by the UK Parliament three times.
One of the major changes is that the proposed “backstop” – which would have kept Northern Ireland indefinitely aligned to EU rules and regulations to prevent a “hard border” with the Republic of Ireland – has been removed and replaced with a deal which will see Northern Ireland staying within a single UK customs zone and also be considered a point of entry to the EU customs zone.
All goods moving between Great Britain and the island of Ireland would be subject to customs checks, but the UK will only apply tariffs to goods moving through Northern Ireland to the Republic, while Northern Ireland will also be a party to any future trade agreements negotiated by the UK.
This arrangement would be renewable every four years, subject to approval by the Northern Irish Assembly – which has been suspended since 2017.