Just over a week ago, we posted about a potential new deal between the UK and the EU27 that could potentially deliver on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promise to leave the EU by 31 October 2019.
Defying the odds and following a frenetic amount of activity in Brussels in advance of the European Council meeting that began today, a new withdrawal agreement and political declaration has been announced that removes the Northern Ireland backstop (see here for further details). However, the agreement must still be endorsed by the EU27 at today’s European Council meeting (which is expected) and it must approved by the UK Parliament, which is planning an extraordinary sitting this Saturday. When the new deal comes back to Parliament, there remains the question of whether Johnson has the votes to get it approved. He does not on his own and it is unknown whether there will be enough opposition support to get any deal over the line, meaning that we would be back to a postponement of Brexit.
We have also had the State Opening of a new Parliament this week together with a Queen’s Speech that sets out the Governments agenda (the full text of that speech may be found here). Given the lack of a majority, it is difficult to see how that agenda can be implemented.
A General Election is still likely in the near future, perhaps being triggered as early as this Monday (21 October), which could mean a General Election on Thursday, 28 November (assuming that the convention of polling day occurring on a Thursday is maintained). Triggering an election on Monday will require support from the Labour Party, which is only likely to be forthcoming if the new deal has been agreed by the EU27 and approved by the UK Parliament or Brexit has been postponed to 31 January 2020. Given the current state of the political parties in Parliament, a postponement still appears to be the most likely of these two options.
It feels like things are finally changing, but it is still far from clear what exactly will happen next!