British and European Union negotiators reached a preliminary agreement Thursday on Britain's withdrawal from the EU. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tweeted: "We have one! It's a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the U.K." British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called it a "great new deal" and urged Parliament to ratify it in a special session on Saturday. The other 27 EU nations, whose leaders are meeting for a summit later Thursday, also have to approve the new Brexit deal.
Juncker said he will recommend the other EU nations back the agreement, but Johnson already saw his narrow passageway to Parliament's approval shrink further when his Conservative Party's Northern Ireland partners, the Democratic Unionist Party, said they "could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues" for the border between Ireland, an EU member, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. The DUP affirmed their opposition after the deal was announced.
Johnson's deal replaces the "backstop" agreement for the Irish border that was negotiated by his predecessor, Theresa May, but officials from Northern Ireland don't like that the new plan treats Northern Ireland differently than the other parts of the U.K. Michel Barnier, the EU's chief negotiator, said Thursday that the new deal won't result in a hard border, adding: "We are fully committed to protect peace, to protect stability on the island of Ireland."
Britain's main opposition parties, Labour and Liberal Democrats, both quickly rejected the deal. Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson called Johnson's deal "bad for our economy, bad for our public services and bad for our environment." Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Johnson's Brexit deal is "even worse" than May's, adding "This sell-out deal won't bring the country together and should be rejected." Without the DUP and its 10 votes, "Boris Johnson will not get the numbers to get a deal," said BBC deputy political editor Norman Smith. "That is just an arithmetical fact."