So what’s in the revised withdrawal agreement?

It was confirmed yesterday, Thursday, October 17, that the UK and the EU had reached a deal on how to revise the withdrawal agreement for the country’s exit from the bloc.

The revised deal – which will be put to a vote in the House of Commons tomorrow, Saturday, October 19 – is much the same as the deal already negotiated between the EU and the previous UK government last November.

However, there are differences to the deal where Northern Ireland is concerned. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a member of the UK cabinet and a staunch ‘Brexiter’, said in the UK parliament yesterday that the deal “removes the backstop”.

In a statement, the European Commission explained: “In terms of regulations, Northern Ireland will remain aligned to a limited set of rules related to the EU’s single market in order to avoid a hard border.”

This “limited set of rules” includes: legislation on goods; sanitary rules for veterinary controls (‘SPS rules’); rules on agricultural production/marketing; VAT and excise in respect of goods; and state aid rules.

A single customs territory for the EU and UK, which was part of the previous agreement, has been removed. Instead, a new mechanism will allow Northern Ireland to remain within a separate UK customs territory, while still ensuring that there will be no customs border on the island of Ireland.

This aspect of the agreement “fully protects the integrity of the EU’s single market and customs union, and avoids any regulatory and customs checks at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland”, the commission statement continued.

The last revision relates to a new mechanism for consent in Northern Ireland. This will give the Northern Ireland Assembly a “decisive voice” on the application of relevant EU law there.

The commission said that it had been “in close contact” with the Irish Government during the negotiations on the point of consent.

Political declaration

The political declaration, outlining the future relationship between the UK and the EU, has been slightly amended so to be based on a free trade agreement (FTA).

According to the commission statement, the revised declaration aims for an “ambitious FTA with zero tariffs and quotas between the EU and the UK”, adding that the declarations say “robust commitments on a level playing field should ensure open and fair competition”.

Commenting on the revisions to the withdrawal agreement and the political declaration, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, said: “We had difficult discussions over the past days. We have managed to find solutions that fully respect the integrity of the single market. We created a new and legally operative solution to avoid a hard border, and protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland.”

The new deal will now be put to a vote in the House of Commons tomorrow.

A number of pro-Brexit figures who rejected the previous version of the withdrawal agreement, such as Rees-Mogg, have signaled that they would support these new proposals.

However, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which is in coalition with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives, confirmed yesterday that its 10 MPs would not be voting in favour of the proposals.