Closing summary

That’s it from us for this evening. Here’s a summary of the day’s main events:

  • Downing Street and Brussels announced they had reached a Brexit deal to put to the UK and European parliaments. While many Tories are expected to back the deal, the DUP has said it will not and Boris Johnson faces a fight to get it through a Commons vote.
  • The prime minister predicted MPs would back it, despite the lack of support from the DUP. There was an effort to frame the choice facing parliamentarians as being between the prime minister’s deal and no deal at all, with the European commission president seeming to rule out any delay. But the door was left ajar when EU leaders later refused to rule out a delay.
  • The Labour leadership indicated it would not back the deal, denouncing it as worse than that negotiated by Theresa May and rejected three times by parliament. It remains to be seen whether some pro-Brexit Labour MPs will side with the prime minister.
  • The EU’s chief negotiator said there would be enough time to ratify the deal by the 31 October deadline. You can read a summary of Michel Barnier’s speech here.

If you’d like to read yet more, my colleagues Heather Stewart, Daniel Boffey and Jennifer Rankin have the full story:

Mark Field, the Tory MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, has announced he will not stand in the next general election, blaming a “fractious and febrile” political atmosphere.

Field, who has held the seat since 2001, said in a statement to his local association he was proud of his reputation as a “moderate, consensual MP, invariably keen to work effectively across party lines to the benefit of constituents and communities alike”.

However, such a pragmatic, cooperative approach to public service has been tested to destruction in the fractious, febrile and deeply divisive aftermath to the EU referendum in 2016.

I had dearly hoped that by the time of the next general election these issues would have been resolved. However, it is increasingly clear that divisions over Brexit and our future relationship with the EU-27 will dominate and define domestic politics for many years to come.

Field was condemned by many this summer after he was filmed manhandling an environmental protester at the chancellor’s Mansion House speech.

Provides big opportunity for @ChukaUmunna, who is standing in this seat for Lib Dems.

— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) October 17, 2019


The EU legislature will take its full time to carefully examine and approve any divorce deal for the UK, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit official has said. Guy Verhofstadt has said the process could spill past 31 October, when the UK is currently scheduled to leave the EU.

He has said MEPs will only start their work once the UK’s parliament has passed a fully binding Brexit deal. If that slips past the European plenary session next week, it could well have to be picked up in the session that begins on 13 November.

Any EU-UK Brexit withdrawal deal needs the official backing of both the British and European Parliaments. Verhofstadt said the parliament “will only start its work from the moment that we are 100% sure that the British Parliament will adopt this deal”.

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, has been addressing his party’s amendment to Johnson’s Brexit deal, saying other opposition parties need to “quit dithering ... and finally act to bring this appalling Tory government down and stop Brexit”.

Boris Johnson’s appalling Brexit deal is even worse than Theresa May’s.

It would be devastating for Scotland – dragging us out of the EU, single market and customs union against our will, and singling Scotland out, alone of UK nations, for a raw deal, with our votes and voice ignored.

The SNP will never vote for this deal, which would inflict lasting harm on jobs, living standards, public services and the economy.

It is clearer than ever that the best future for Scotland is as an equal, independent European nation and the people of Scotland must be given that choice.

My colleagues, Jennifer Rankin and Rowena Mason, have just published this comprehensive look at how the deal was struck and what could happen next:

The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, has labelled the Brexit agreement Johnson’s “sell-out deal”:

The more people examine text of Johnson deal, the more you realise what a sell out deal it is. It’s not just the DUP, he’s sold out virtually every sector of our economy & all those who may have voted to leave believing a deal could be secured that protected their jobs. #Sellout

— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) October 17, 2019

Here’s a little more reaction from Labour MPs:

Now I have read the deal set out by the Prime Minister, I can confirm there is no way that I can support it. It’s worse than May’s deal, cuts our environment, workers and civic rights, puts responsibility for a border into the hands of the NI Assembly which hasn’t met for 3 years

— Rachael Maskell MP (@RachaelMaskell) October 17, 2019

Johnson's deal will be a disaster for working people - it will shrink the economy, make trade more expensive and hit the poorest in the UK the hardest.

I will vote against this botched deal but I call on the Prime Minister to do the right thing - to give the people a final say.

— Andy Slaughter (@hammersmithandy) October 17, 2019

This 👇

— Angela Eagle (@angelaeagle) October 17, 2019

Walthamstow today’s Brexit update for you on Thursday 17th October - basically PM has agreed a hard brexit and that’s what’s on the table for parliament to vote on this Saturday (spoiler I think it’s terrible so no…

— stellacreasy (@stellacreasy) October 17, 2019

Of course, it is to the likes of Sir Kevin Barron, Rosie Cooper, Jim Fitzpatrick, Caroline Flint and John Mann – Labour MPs who have previously backed a Brexit deal in the Commons – that Johnson will look for support.


It seems clear that the DUP will not only decline to support the deal, they will vote against it. This from Sky News’ David Blevins and Antonello Guerrera, of Italy’s la Repubblica newspaper:

DUP leader Arlene Foster tells @SkyNews: “We are not going to vote for this on Saturday but... Saturday is not the end. It’s not even the beginning of the end.” #Brexit

— David Blevins (@skydavidblevins) October 17, 2019

BREAKING. DUP's Sammy Wilson tells me that DUP are certainly "voting AGAINST" Johnson's #Brexit deal - NOT abstain - and that all 10 DUP MPs are united in their cause: "We are SOLID as the ROCK of GIBRALTAR".

More tonight/tomorrow in @repubblica

— Antonello Guerrera (@antoguerrera) October 17, 2019

My colleague, Lisa O’Carroll, has put together this handy explainer on what, exactly, Johnson’s deal entails. The key sentence:

Overall, the backstop has essentially been replaced by a full stop whereby Northern Ireland remains aligned to the EU from the end of the transition period for at least four years.

Besides the motion seeking MPs’ approval for the Brexit deal, a separate no-deal Brexit motion has also been tabled. But, the Press Association reports, it’s understood the government did this as a contingency measure as the talks were still taking place in Brussels.

Also, my colleague Rowena Mason has this:

SNP tabling an amendment to Boris Johnson's Brexit deal demanding an extension to the end of January for the purposes of calling an election

— Rowena Mason (@rowenamason) October 17, 2019

The Labour MP, Hilary Benn, has asked government to release impact assessments for Johnson’s Brexit deal ahead of Saturday’s vote, in a letter to the Brexit secretary, Stephen Barclay.

And the wheels are starting to turn in Westminster:

BREAKING: Government will move one motion in the Commons on Saturday - for a deal. MPs sit from 0930am. Amendments can be tabled from tonight. There's no cut-off time, so things could run late.

— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) October 17, 2019

It’s perhaps interesting to note that Johnson spent a not insignificant proportion of his time talking about policies one would expect to see in an election manifesto, as well as deploying the language of such a campaign, rather than about Brexit.

“Take back control” makes an appearance, as does “get Brexit done”.

He also refers to the planned recruitment of more police officers (though that might not be all it seems), as well as the government’s living wage plans, which he says represent the “biggest expansion”. Without Johnson setting out what he’s actually measuring that against, it’s impossible to determine whether or not it’s an accurate claim.

Furthermore, it’s worth putting Johnson’s claims about increased education funding into context. We reported back in March, for example, that teachers have been covering for canteen staff and cleaners in English schools under Tory government policy, while essential funds are raised by parent donations and “charity” non-uniform days:

Here’s the full text of the prime minister’s speech:

This has been a very productive day for the UK in the sense that the European Council has approved the deal that has been negotiated over the last couple of months and I thank them very much again for their work.

I particularly thank Michel Barnier and his team, I thank Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the commission, for all the personal effort that he has put into getting this deal done.

I want to stress that this is a great deal for our country, for the UK. I also believe it’s a very good deal for our friends in the EU.

And what it means is that we in the UK can come out of the EU as one United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, together. And it means we can decide our future together. We can take back control, as the phrase goes, of our money, our borders, our laws, together. And we will be able to do free trade agreements around the world.

And we can also build now, after three and a half years, on our relations with our friends and partners in the EU and it will be a very exciting period now, as it were, to get to the positive side of that project; the extraction having been done, the building now begins.

I am very confident that, when my colleagues in Parliament study this agreement, that they will want to vote for it on Saturday and then in succeeding days.

This is our chance in the UK as democrats to get Brexit done and come out on 31 October.

This is our chance to focus on our priorities, the people’s priorities: the NHS; putting 20,000 police on the streets; lifting up funding of education across the country; the biggest expansion of the living wage.

Those are the things I think the people of our country want us to be focusing on, in addition to Brexit.

We’ve been at this now, as I say, for three and a half years. It hasn’t always been an easy experience for the UK. It’s been long, it’s been painful, it’s been divisive. And now is the moment for us, as a country, to come together. Now is the moment for our parliamentarians to come together and get this thing done.

And, as I say, to begin building a new and progressive partnership with our EU friends, with whom of course we share so many priorities.


It’s suggested that, without the support of the DUP, his predicament is similar to that of his predecessor, Theresa May. Is he not simply repeating her mistakes?

Johnson replies again that it’s a good deal that MPs should back. He had earlier told MPs he was “very confident” that, when MPs study the Brexit deal, they would want to vote for it.


The prime minister declines to say whether he’ll withdraw the whip from Tory MPs who do not vote for the deal. And he avoids a question on whether he’ll restore it to those from whom it was withdrawn last month.

Asked how the deal will help heal Brexit divisions within the UK, Johnson says that moving on from the “extraction” process will allow the country to begin working on determining the nature of the relationship with the EU.

Sir Nicholas Soames tells me he hopes the deal will lead to healing - in Tory party and beyond: ‘It’s been a very painful time – not just for parliament, but for the country. Families have split. Businesses have split. The country is split, which is why parliament is split’

— Nicholas Watt (@nicholaswatt) October 17, 2019

The prime minister is saying that tying up the deal allows him to focus on other priorities, including putting 20,000 police officers on the streets. He has, of course, been accused of misleading the public over this policy.

He says Brexit has “been long, it’s been painful and divisive” and says he believes MPs will back it.

Johnson says he's "very confident" MPs will support his deal on Saturday. "Now is the time for parliamentarians to come together and get this done".

— Heather Stewart (@GuardianHeather) October 17, 2019

PM says there is a 'very good case' to back the deal and 'I don't think there is any case for a delay'

— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) October 17, 2019


Boris Johnson is starting his press conference, claiming the deal allows the whole of the UK to leave the EU together. And he says it allows the “building” of a future relationship to begin.

Here is an important point flagged up by the political commentator and broadcaster Steve Richards.

Junker says talks on new trade deal would begin on Nov 1st inadvertently reminding us that the thorny bit of Brexit is still to come and exposing myth that leaving on 31st gets ‘Brexit done’ . Trade deal much harder and its trade that splits parties. Brexit has only just begun.

— steve richards (@steverichards14) October 17, 2019

Boris Johnson is about to hold a press conference.

But I am finished for the day. My colleague Kevin Rawlinson is taking over.

Tusk refuses to rule out EU granting further Brexit extension, despite Juncker saying earlier it would not happen

Q: What compromises has the EU made? And what will happen if the UK votes against the deal?

Tusk says the EU has been willing to consider compromises.

He says the EU intends to work towards ratification. This was a clear decision.

He says the EU is prepared for ratification, logistically and politically.

He has “no idea” what will happen in the debate. He goes on:

If there is a request for an extension, I will contact member states to see how to react.

„...but there will always be a place at our table, if the UK wants to join the EU again”, promises the Irish prime minister @LeoVaradkar in the most crowded press room ever. #Brexit

— Stefan Leifert (@StefanLeifert) October 17, 2019

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, is speaking now.

He says, after the UK leaves, the work on a new partnership will have to start.

He thanks his team. He thanks his most senior officials by name.

He says this deal will provide legal certainty.

He says he worked on the unity of the EU27 and of the European parliament.

He says he very much regrets Brexit. But he respects it. It was a sovereign choice of the UK.

He says he has a Gaullist tendency. He has great respect for the UK, and he remembers what the UK did in Europe’s darkest hour. He has infinite respect for the UK.

In the future the UK will be there.

Varadkar says the transition will last “at least” until the end of 2020. It could get extended.

He says Ireland and the EU’s objectives have been met. Citizens’ rights have been protected. There will be a financial settlement. There will be no hard border. And the all-island economy will continue.

He says the European council has backed this agreement unanimously. He hopes the UK parliament will now back it.

Varadkar says UK will always be welcome back in EU

Leo Varadkar, the Irish taoiseach (PM) is speaking now.

He says he has learnt two things about the EU in his two years as taoiseach. He has seen the unity of the EU, and what it can achieve if it stands together. This is a lesson for the future, he says.

And he says he has felt, as leader of a small country, “enormous solidarity” from the EU. Sometime small states like Ireland think they will be swallowed up by an organisation like the EU. But Ireland has felt respected.

He says he feels sad about Brexit. It is like an old friend going on a journey. He hopes it works out for them. But there will always be a place for the UK if it wants to come back.

  • Varadkar says the UK will always be welcome back in the EU.

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, is speaking now.

He says the agreement protects the rights of citizens.

The EU has always put people first, he says.

He says this agreement would not have been possible without the taoiseach.

He says the political declaration provides for a free trade agreement.

He says he is happy they have reached a deal, but sad Brexit is happening.

Tusk/Juncker press conference

Donald Tusk, president of the European council, is speaking at his press conference now.

He says the EU has endorsed the deal and “it looks like we are very close to the final stretch”.

Why has a deal that looked impossible yesterday been approved? First, because it has been positively assessed by Ireland. And, second, it has been positively assessed by the European commission.

He says the main change has been Boris Johnson’s decision to allow customs checks between Britain and Ireland.

Now we are waiting for the vote in parliament.

Tusk says he feels sadness. Personally he is a remainer, and he hopes that if the UK decides to rejoin, the EU’s door will be open.

  • Tusk says he hopes one day the UK will decide to rejoin the EU.

The division lists for the vote on the Letwin amendment earlier (see 1.49pm) are on the Commons website here.

Only one Tory MP rebelled and supported the amendment, Dame Caroline Spelman. But nine of the 21 Tory MPs who lost the whip over a Brexit rebellion last month and who now sit as independents also voted for the amendment.

Only one DUP MP voted with the government. The other nine did not. We don’t know if that was a protest against the Brexit deal, but if the other nine DUP MPs had voted with the government would have lost by three, not nine.

The EU27 have finished their discussion on Brexit, according to Preben Aamann, a spokesman for Donald Tusk, the president of the European council. A draft of the conclusions was leaked earlier. (See 4.14pm.)

Brexit EU27 EUCO finished. Conclusions adopted.

— Preben Aamann (@PrebenEUspox) October 17, 2019

Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker are due to hold a press conference within the next half an hour.

Here is one take on how the voting could go on Saturday, under various scenarios.

This @ciceroglobal chart helpful

DUP rebel but ERG + Lab MPs who backed May + indy Cons support: Johnson loses -5

DUP+ERG reject but Lab MPs who backed May+indy Cons: Johnson loses -55

DUP rebel, ERG support+Leave Lab MPs+Lab MPs 4 deal + indy Cons = Johnson wins +29

— Matthew Goodwin (@GoodwinMJ) October 17, 2019

From AFP’s Dave Clark

In case there's anyone still arguing what Juncker said or meant or has authority to say or whatever, a EUCO source who was in the room said the leaders' "draft is silent about a extension, it's too soon. If it's voted down on Saturday we're in a different situation."

— Dave Clark (@DaveClark_AFP) October 17, 2019

Farage accuses Juncker of 'overriding Benn Act'

Nigel Farage, the Brexit party leader, devotes most of his campaigning energy at the moment to complaining that Brexit has not yet been delivered.

But now that Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, is saying the EU would not allow a further Brexit deal, Farage is complaining that Juncker is overriding the Benn Act, which requires the PM to ask for an extension if his deal does not get approved.

So an unelected, retiring bureaucrat says: No extension, take this new treaty or just leave.

He is overriding the Benn Act. The EU shows itself to be a thuggocracy - power without accountability.

Appalling people.

— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) October 17, 2019

EU ministers are starting to query Jean-Claude Juncker’s claim that the EU would not allow a further Brexit extension. (See 2.37pm.)

This is from the BBC’s Nick Eardley, quoting the Danish prime minister Mette Frederiksen.

Danish PM: “Denmark is ready accept another Brexit delay if the new Brexit deal does not get trough the House of Commons" via @GavinLeeBBC

— Nick Eardley (@nickeardleybbc) October 17, 2019

And this is from the BBC’s Faisal Islam, quoting Paschal Donohoe, the Irish finance minister.

NEW: Just spoken to Irish finance min @Paschald in DC - “agreement provides best environment within which to protect trade and protect GFA”...

I ask about Juncker & extension - UK will decide whether or not it wants one then “it’s a matter for the European Council” (ie not JCJ)

— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) October 17, 2019


Starmer says changes to political declaration show Johnson's Brexit deal's 'far worse' than May's

And these are from Sir Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, who has been studying the revised political declaration (see 12.17pm) in detail.

Excuse the long thread, but I have looked carefully at the #BrexitDeal negotiated by Boris Johnson. Here is my analysis: 1/

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) October 17, 2019

Labour’s concerns with Theresa May’s deal were not principally about the backstop. They were about the Political Declaration and our future relationship with the EU after Brexit. 2/

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) October 17, 2019

Having reviewed what has been agreed, it is clear that the Johnson deal is a far worse deal than Theresa May’s deal. It paves the way for a decade of deregulation. It gives Johnson licence to slash workers’ rights, environmental standards and consumer protections. 3/

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) October 17, 2019

Rather than strengthening the Political Declaration (PD) along the lines Labour argued, the political direction of travel under Johnson is to a distant economic relationship with the EU. It rules out a new Customs Union and a close future relationship with the Single Market. 4/

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) October 17, 2019

This inevitably means there will be new trade barriers with the EU and additional checks at borders. The PD is explicit about this. And the Johnson deal makes it easier for a Tory Government to cut rights and standards. 5/

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) October 17, 2019

On services, the PD offers nothing beyond the weak provisions in the Theresa May deal. Nor has there been any progress on the question of agencies and our future security relationship. 6/

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) October 17, 2019

The level playing field commitments are significantly weaker: no longer building on the measures in the old Withdrawal Agreement, which provided for dynamic alignment in certain areas. 7/

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) October 17, 2019

Instead, the level playing field provisions only last until the end of transition with a warning shot from the EU about the impact this will have on (reduced) access to EU markets. 8/

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) October 17, 2019

Labour will not support a flawed Brexit deal that harms jobs, rights and living standards. This deal will unquestionably do that. 9/

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) October 17, 2019

Labour cannot support this deal. If Boris Johnson has confidence in his deal, he should put it back to the people in a public vote against remain - and that is an argument we will be making on Saturday. 10/

— Keir Starmer (@Keir_Starmer) October 17, 2019

These are from my colleague Rowena Mason.

People’s Vote MPs pulling back from having any second ref vote on Saturday - say it’s now not the time, better to wait (they don’t have numbers among former Tory MPs)

— Rowena Mason (@rowenamason) October 17, 2019

They claim it’s not because the Labour leadership isn’t supportive of second ref amendment but.... Jeremy Corbyn didn’t totally sound keen on it earlier

— Rowena Mason (@rowenamason) October 17, 2019

Could a non core PV MP table a second ref amendment though, thinking that support is worth testing?

— Rowena Mason (@rowenamason) October 17, 2019

Politico Europe’s Jacopo Barigazzi has posted on Twitter a copy of a draft of the summit conclusions on Brexit. It does not say anything about whether the EU would or would not approve an extension if MPs were to vote down the deal. Instead it just invites the European commission, parliament and council “to take the necessary steps to ensure that the agreement can enter into force on 1 November 2019, so as to provide for an orderly withdrawal”.

Draft of #Euco Conclusions on Brexit that don’t talk about #Brexit #extension

— jacopo barigazzi (@jacopobarigazzi) October 17, 2019

Here is the latest story from the summit from my colleagues Daniel Boffey, Jennifer Rankin and Heather Stewart, focusing on Jean-Claude Juncker’s comments.

And this is how it starts.

Jean-Claude Juncker has tried to help sell the new Brexit deal in the face of opposition from the Democratic Unionist party by pouring doubt on a further Brexit extension in the event of it being rejected.

With Boris Johnson facing an uphill struggle to secure a majority in the Commons when it sits on Saturday, the European commission president piled pressure on MPs who fear a no-deal Brexit into giving their support.

Juncker said he was “ruling out” a prolongation, although the issue is solely the remit of the heads of state and government. “If we have a deal, we have a deal and there is no need for prolongation,” he added.

The claim was not repeated by any EU leaders. Donald Tusk, the European council president, confined himself to saying that “a deal is always better than a no deal”. Sources in Brussels suggested that previous comments from Juncker in which he had said the bloc would never choose a no-deal Brexit were a “better reflection” of the EU’s position.

Campaigning anti-Brexit QC Jolyon Maugham has now lodged his petition at the court of session in Edinburgh, which essentially tries to ban parliament from debating the new Brexit deal, on the basis that it is illegal, and which he anticipates will be heard tomorrow.

Maugham believes that the deal contravenes s55 of the Taxation (Cross-border Trade) Act 2018, which states that it is “unlawful for Her Majesty’s government to enter into arrangements under which Northern Ireland forms part of a separate customs territory to Great Britain”.

With the detail of Boris Johnson’s new deal still emerging, lawyers insist that s55 is “crystal clear” and that any form of differentiated deal for Northern Ireland will contravene it.

So buckle up for a weekend of constitutional hijinks in Edinburgh. Remember that if Johnson refuses to sign an extension letter to the EU (should he fail to get the deal through on Saturday AND provided the court doesn’t blow the whole debate out of the water) then Maugham will be back in court on Monday ... this time with his fellow petitioners, Joanna Cherry, Dale Vince, who are notably absent from today’s petition.

Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, has already cleared time for an emergency hearing in the court of session at noon on Monday 21 October, where he could issue court orders forcing Johnson to send a letter to the EU asking for an extension to article 50 until 31 January as per the Benn act.


This is from Sir Craig Oliver, David Cameron’s former communications chief.

I suspect @BorisJohnson and his team think they have the numbers to pass the deal without the DUP - but even if they don’t, they get to run a populist election campaign, which should be enough. But it’s so volatile a change of just a few points could be disastrous.

— Craig Oliver (@CraigOliver100) October 17, 2019

The French president, Emmanuel Macron, welcomed the Brexit deal as he arrived at the EU summit earlier, but stressed that it still had to get through the UK and EU parliaments.
“Based on past experience we have to be reasonably cautious,” he said.


From Reuters’ Luke Baker

As the EU summit got underway, Boris Johnson went around the table greeting each leader in turn. He laughed and joked with Merkel and Macron, and hugged Luxembourg's Xavier Bettel, who had made fun of Johnson for not attending a news conference. All's well that ends well? #Brexit

— Luke Baker (@BakerLuke) October 17, 2019

Here is Katya Adler, the BBC’s Europe editor, on Jean-Claude Juncker’s comments.

Jean Claude Juncker quoted all over UK media as saying - “there will be no extension” BUT this is said a) To help Boris Johnson sell a deal back home in the UK that the EU has no appetite to renegotiate once again .. /1

— katya adler (@BBCkatyaadler) October 17, 2019

b) Mr Juncker would love the Brexit process to be done and dusted during his presidency which is drawing to a close -as part of his legacy (which has to an extent been blighted by the 2016 Brexit vote) BUT /2

— katya adler (@BBCkatyaadler) October 17, 2019

Also 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 /3

— katya adler (@BBCkatyaadler) October 17, 2019

Saying “no extension is necessary” in order to keep up pressure on MPs, encouraging them to focus their minds ahead of vote in Parliament is one thing BUT but after 3 years of Brexit process and two attempts at an EU-UK Brexit deal... /4

— katya adler (@BBCkatyaadler) October 17, 2019

I can’t imagine Angela Merkel for example turning round + saying “no extra time” even if deal is rejected in HoC, there’s a general election or a referendum on this deal, for example /5

— katya adler (@BBCkatyaadler) October 17, 2019

A flat no to the idea of an extension at this stage could mean ushering in the no deal Brexit that EU leaders have been so so so keen to avoid. It’s not a move you’d expect from the EU! /6

— katya adler (@BBCkatyaadler) October 17, 2019

Manufacturing Northern Ireland has given a “guarded welcome” the Brexit agreement saying it “removes the risk of a catastrophic no deal” but raises concerns about the administrative and financial burden on the new arrangements that will apply on some trade into Northern Ireland.

If it is approved, expect Northern Ireland business to be looking for substantial help on both points – the paperwork and costs – from London.

Stephen Kelly, Manufacturing NI’s chief executive, said:

What is good is that a deal is struck, we can move on to the more positive conversation about the future relationship and regardless Northern Ireland can continue to have tariff free, quota free access to both the UK and the EU’s single market.


More on the significance of Jean-Claude Juncker’s comments about the EU not agreeing to a further Brexit extension.

These are from Sky’s Lewis Goodall.

About to get on a plane back but just on Juncker’s words on extension. 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.”

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) October 17, 2019

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.

— Lewis Goodall (@lewis_goodall) October 17, 2019

And this is from the BBC’s Norman Smith.

Folks point out that decision on Brexit extension not down to @JunckerEU but a EU council decision. True....but I think he knew exactly what he was saying and its a big help for Team Johnson.

— norman smith (@BBCNormanS) October 17, 2019

'There will be no prolongation' - What Juncker said about not allowing an extension

This is what Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, said about ruling out a Brexit extension. He was speaking to reporters on the “red carpet” where leaders speak to journalists as they arrive for the summit.

Asked if he thought the deal would pass parliament, he said: “It has to.”

Then he added:

Anyway, there will be no prolongation.

He went on:

We have concluded a deal. So there is not an argument for delay. It has to be done now.

Asked by another journalist if he would rule out an extension if Boris Johnson asked for that, Juncker replied:

I gave a brief doorstop with Boris Johnson ... 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 again if he would officially rule out an extension, he replied:

Yes. We have a deal. So why should we have a prolongation?

But, as my colleague Jennifer Rankin points out, it is questionable whether, in practice, the EU27 would rule out another extension if the alternative were no deal.

Not surprising that Jean-Claude Juncker wants to quash talk of an extension. EU dearly wants Brexit over and done with.

In reality, if UK asked for delay, under Benn Act, hard to see that the EU would say no.

— Jennifer Rankin (@JenniferMerode) October 17, 2019


EU will not grant any further extension, claims Juncker, implying MPs must choose between this deal and no deal

Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president, has said the EU will not grant another Brexit extension.

This is hugely significant because, if the EU27 agree – and it is not clear yet whether he is speaking on their behalf – it means MPs will effectively be faced with a choice between this deal and no deal.


Sinn Féin welcomes deal as 'least worst option'

Sinn Fein has welcomed Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. In a statement its president, Mary Lou McDonald, said:

I welcome the fact that an agreement has been reached between the European Union and the British government.

There is no such thing as a good Brexit. Brexit is being foisted on the north of Ireland against the democratic wishes of the people.

As a party, Sinn Féin has worked to defend Irish interests from the worst impacts of Brexit.

It was Sinn Féin who first made the case for a ‘designated special status for the north within the EU’ and it was Sinn Féin who insisted on the protection of the Good Friday agreement and no hard border on the island of Ireland as bottom lines.

We have also insisted that no veto can be given to unionism.

But she also said any deal was a “least worst option” that would “only mitigate the worst effects of Brexit”.


Boris Johnson has just given a brief statement to the press at the EU summit alongside Jean-Claude Juncker, the European commission president. Juncker said the deal was fair and balanced. He said:

This is a fair, a balanced agreement. It is testament to our commitment to finding solutions. It provides certainty where Brexit creates uncertainty.

And Johnson said this was a very good deal for both sides. He said:

I do think this deal represents a very good deal for the EU and the UK.

I think it is a reasonable, fair outcome and reflects the large amount of work undertaken by both sides ...

I agree very much with Jean-Claude about what he said about protecting the peace process on the island of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Of course, for us in the UK it means we can deliver a real Brexit that achieves our objectives.

It means the UK leaves whole and entire on 31 October and it means that Northern Ireland and every part of the UK can take part in not just free trade deals, offering our tariffs, exporting our goods around the world, but it also means we can take, together as a single United Kingdom, decisions about our future - our laws, our borders, our money and how we want to run the UK.

Those decisions will be taken in the UK by elected representatives of the people in the UK.


Government loses vote on procedure for Saturday that could allow MPs to close Benn act loophole

The government has lost the first vote on the Saturday sitting. Sir Oliver Letwin’s amendment (see 1.29pm) was passed by 287 votes to 275 – a majority of 12.

Explaining his amendment in the debate Letwin said this would allow the government motion on Saturday to be amended. He implied it would allow MPs to insist on Boris Johnson requesting an extension anyway, and only withdrawing that request when the legislation for his deal has passed.

The purpose of the amendment here is very simple, it is to permit amendments to be moved, if selected by [the Speaker], on Saturday, and be voted upon.

And that will enable those of us, like me, who wish to support and carry through and eventually see the ratification of this deal, not to put us in the position of allowing the government off the Benn act hook on Saturday, but only at a time when the bill has been taken through both Houses of Parliament and legislated on.

Letwin was referring to a loophole in the Benn act which means Johnson only has to send a letter requesting an extension if MPs fail to pass a motion backing a deal by Saturday. In theory they could pass that motion, but then fail to pass the withdrawal agreement legislation, which would mean the UK leaving without a deal on 31 October.

The Letwin amendment should also make it possible for MPs to table an amendment saying Johnson’s deal should be subject to a second referendum. (See 9.13am.)

After the vote on the amendment, the motion as amended was approved without a vote.


Iain Duncan Smith, the Tory Brexiter and former party leader, told the BBC’s Daily Politics that he had not decided yet whether he would vote for this deal. As the BBC reports, he explained:

I want to know how quickly can we get to a free trade agreement, how quickly can we therefore get out, what incentive is there for the EU to do this quickly? And is the political declaration exclusively for free trade?

MPs are now voting on the motion to sit on Saturday.

In the Commons MPs are now debating the government business motion saying they sit on Saturday.

Opening the debate Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, said that Boris Johnson would make a statement to MPs on Saturday about the new Brexit agreement. Only after that statement would MPs start the debate on it.

Rees-Mogg said MPs would then vote either on a motion to back the deal or on one to approve no deal. He explained:

The debate that follows will be a motion to either approve a deal or to approve a no-deal exit.

That debate on one or other of those motions would run for up to 90 minutes under the existing rules of this house.

In the event of a motion to approve a deal, that motion, if passed, will meet the terms both of the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act [aka, the Benn act] and of section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act.

The government has not published the motion it is tabling for Saturday.

The debate is scheduled to last 90 minutes.

Sir Oliver Letwin, the Tory former cabinet minister who has been leading efforts to ensure MPs block a no-deal Brexit, has tabled an amendment to the business motion allowing the debate on Saturday to last longer and also allowing more amendments to be put to a vote.

Rees-Mogg claimed that the Letwin amendment could actually shorten the debate because, if Johnson’s statement went on for hours, under the Letwin procedure there would be less than 90-minutes left for the main debate.

But John Bercow, the Speaker, contradicted Rees-Mogg. He said he had the discretion to allow the debate to over-run and he said there was “no way on Earth” he would let it be shortened in the way Rees-Mogg was suggesting.


DUP says it won't vote for deal because it 'drives coach and horses' through Good Friday agreement

Here is the key extract from the DUP’s statement.

These arrangements will become the settled position in these areas for Northern Ireland. This drives a coach and horses through the professed sanctity of the Belfast agreement.

For all of these reasons it is our view that these arrangements would not be in Northern Ireland’s long-term interests. Saturday’s vote in parliament on the proposals will only be the start of a long process to get any withdrawal agreement bill through the House of Commons.


The DUP has just issued this statement.

DUP statement in full: #Brexit

— David Blevins (@skydavidblevins) October 17, 2019

Michel Barnier's press conference - Summary

Here is the text of Michel Barnier’s opening statement at his press conference earlier. And here are the key points from the opening and the Q&A.

  • Barnier said that the new deal could be ratified before 31 October. That would be necessary for Boris Johnson to be able to fulfil his pledge to take the UK out of the EU on 31 October. Barnier stressed that the agreement was only a draft, and that it would not be ratified at the summit today. But he also said:

I am confident [the agreement] can be supported and ratified in the time between now and 31 October.

  • He confirmed that the DUP would not have a veto on whether the new arrangements for Northern Ireland came into force. (See 11.16am.) Explaining what the agreement now says about the issue of consent, which is different from what Johnson was proposing earlier this month, Barnier said:

Four years after the entry into force of the protocol, the elected representatives of Northern Ireland will be able to decide, by simple majority, whether to continue applying relevant Union rules in Northern Ireland or not.

  • He said Johnson told Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, he was confident MPs would pass his deal. Barnier said:

Mr Johnson said to President Juncker this morning he has faith in his ability to convince the majority he needs in the House of Commons. He said, based on this agreement and the explanations he intends to give, he has confidence in his ability to win that vote.

  • Barnier refused to speculate on whether the EU would be willing to make a fresh offer to the UK if MPs voted down this plan.


DUP 'won't vote for Boris Johnson's deal'

From Bloomberg’s Kitty Donaldson

EXC: @duponline won't vote for @BorisJohnson Brexit deal: sources

— Kitty Donaldson (@kitty_donaldson) October 17, 2019

Has the DUP been abandoned by No 10?

A view in Northern Ireland is that the DUP have been totally shafted, or “run over by a convoy of juggernauts”, and for once lost out in their hallmark brinkmanship.

This could rise to further tensions in the region, making it vital that there is “no crowing in Dublin”, one source said.

The DUP, which had been the lynchpin in Theresa May’s government, have seen their powerful position rubbed out this morning in Brussels and some in Northern Ireland are saying they believe that this was Boris Johnson’s calculation all along: get a deal and have a general election whether he gets it through parliament or not.

“This has not gone well for the DUP. This is a huge moment for the DUP, and it is going to create huge tensions on the unionist side. Northern Ireland continues to be collateral damage in Brexit,” said the source.

Some believe that the DUP’s statement this morning was about forcing further concessions from Boris Johnson. But the moment the deal was done the door was closed in their face. That said it may well be that Johnson lavishes the DUP/Northern Ireland with a jacuzzi of cash in the next two days to bring them back on board.

The Northern Ireland secretary, Julian Smith, was in Derry recently to discuss the establishment of a new medical school and there has been repeated talk of money for a motorway from Derry to Belfast. But sources say “this is of no interest to the DUP because that is Sinn Féin territory”.

So if the DUP have been sold a dummy pass, how did that happen? Could Dominic Cummings have come up with a cunning plan to persuade them to drop regulatory alignment in exchange for a veto on the deal, a veto that he knew would never get through? That is a question yet to be answered.

Others point out that the DUP took a huge step agreeing to yield on regulatory alignment with the EU and this was not matched by the EU/Dublin.

They felt that this was not recognised by Dublin and they were “very annoyed” when Leo Varadkar made an off-the-cuff remark in Sweden days later that the British public actually wanted to stay in the EU but it was politically impossible.


Michael Gove, the Cabinet Office minister in charge of no-deal planning, told Sky News that this deal was not a betrayal of the DUP. Asked if the government had thrown the DUP under the bus, he replied: “Absolutely not, this is a great deal.”

Asked what would happen if MPs rejected the deal on Saturday, he said: “We don’t contemplate defeat.”


Farage says Johnson's deal is 'not Brexit'

Nigel Farage, the Brexit party leader, says the new deal does not amount to proper Brexit.

The commitment to regulatory alignment in this agreement means that the “new deal” is not Brexit, despite improvements on the customs union.

— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) October 17, 2019

Revised political declaration published - What's changed?

Here is the revised text of the political declaration (pdf). It runs to 27 pages.

And here is some comment on it from journalists and other commentators

From ITV’s Joel Hills

Political Declaration is out. Much of it is unchanged but gone is commitment to “a trading relationship on goods that is as close as possible”. Instead a “free trade agreement”. This matters. Higher trade barriers = greater economic cost.

— Joel Hills (@ITVJoel) October 17, 2019

Commitment to “single customs territory” has been scrapped, confirming the need for checks at the border. Plan is that goods will not attract tariffs (as part of free trade agreement) but only if they satisfy “rules of origin” checks. This will make some UK/EU trade more costly.

— Joel Hills (@ITVJoel) October 17, 2019

Commitments around fishing access are unchanged. UK will be “independent coastal state” but commits to an agreement offering “access to waters and quotas”. At least 7 EU states fish in UK waters. EU unlikely to agree to a trade deal unless its happy with ongoing access.

— Joel Hills (@ITVJoel) October 17, 2019

From Stuart Wood, a Labour peer and former EU adviser to Gordon Brown

Pic 1: 2018 Political Declaration commits to customs arrangements that “obviate the need for checks on rules of origin”

Pic 2: 2019 Political Declaration envisages an FTA “with appropriate & modern accompanying rules of origin”

Any thoughts from the UK car industry?

— Stewart Wood (@StewartWood) October 17, 2019

From Sam Lowe from the Centre for European Reform

There's going to be lots of talk about level playing field. Firm obligations have moved from the withdrawal agreement and become looser words in the political declaration.

— Sam Lowe (@SamuelMarcLowe) October 17, 2019

The thing to understand is that the EU has kicked the can. It has decided that it can bring back its level playing field concerns when negotiating the future relationship. i.e. "We will only sign off on an FTA if you commit to x, y and z".

Lpf will return.

— Sam Lowe (@SamuelMarcLowe) October 17, 2019

From MLex’s Matthew Holehouse

Level playing field. NB effective enforcement and implementation of “union standards”.

Prediction: the Johnson FTA will contain near-as identical provisions on LPF to the May backstop, with inferior market access to show for it.

— Matthew Holehouse (@mattholehouse) October 17, 2019

From’s Ian Dunt

Level playing field conditions on workers rights & environmental standards is indicative of weird half-truth world this debate is conducted in.

— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) October 17, 2019

They've been moved out of legal withdrawal agreement document and into non-legal political declaration, as a condition for a future trade deal.

— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) October 17, 2019

What difference does that make in objective reality? None really. The UK will want an FTA. These are the conditions it will have to accept for having it.

— Ian Dunt (@IanDunt) October 17, 2019

This is from Sky’s Beth Rigby.

NEW: Am told by govt source that Johnson will tell EU leaders that it’s this deal or no deal - but no delays.
He will not ask for a extension and will not accept one if offered

— Beth Rigby (@BethRigby) October 17, 2019

These are from my colleague Rajeev Syal, who was at the No 10 lobby briefing.

Boris Johnson is taking a Brexit deal to the EU without DUP support. "He strongly believes it is the best deal for the UK and believes the whole of the UK will support it, says the PM's spox.

— rajeev syal (@syalrajeev) October 17, 2019

Not even all of the cabinet had seen the deal before it was published - just Javid, Raab, Gove, Barclay and Cox. "The intention is to put the document forward for a vote on Saturday," said PM's spox.

— rajeev syal (@syalrajeev) October 17, 2019

PM spoke to Juncker on the phone at 9am.

He then called the EU exit strategy committee - his closest cabinet colleagues.

Johnson then spoke to Juncker again on the phone after 10am to seal the deal.

— rajeev syal (@syalrajeev) October 17, 2019

The PM will arrive in Brussels at 1330pm, Brussels time, 1230pm UK time.

Meaningful vote is published on Saturday.

Legal advice will be published later today

— rajeev syal (@syalrajeev) October 17, 2019

Q: What happens if the Northern Ireland assembly wants to stop accepting EU rules? And what is the solution on VAT?

On VAT, Barnier says an agreement was reached overnight. There was an issue with the need for consistency on VAT rates. A mechanism to ensure this was agreed. The EU system would apply in Northern Ireland. For businesses, it is logical to have consistency, as with the single market for goods.

On consent, he says the new protocol would be supported democratically. At the end of the transition period there would be a four-year period for the new arrangements to be in force. At the end of that the members of the Northern Ireland assembly would vote, on the basis of a simple majority, for the arrangement to continue for another four years. If there were a cross-community vote in favour, it would continue for eight years. If there were a vote to end the arrangements, there would be a two-year cooling off period.

He says this new approach has nothing to do with the old backstop. It sets up a system in Northern Ireland that is sustainable. It is linked to regular, democratic verification. There is ownership of this in Northern Ireland. We now must place our trust in the system, he says.

And that’s it. The press conference is over.

Q: The UK authorities will be able to apply their own tariffs, as long as there is no risk of goods entering the single market. How will that be established?

Barnier says there is a possibility that goods arriving from GB, or from a third country via GB, might not stay in the customs territory of NI. That risk exists. That is why both sides have come up with a mechanism to assess this risk. The assessment will be based on a number of criteria, overseen by a joint committee. What is the destination of the goods? Are they consumer goods or industrial goods? What is the value of the goods? What is the risk of an infringement?

Q: What was key turning point in the last week?

Barnier says the taoiseach had a special responsibility. The Irish government is a co-guarantor of the Good Friday agreement. He met Boris Johnson in Liverpool. And after that meeting the UK and the EU were able to make headway. They agreed there would be no customs checks in Ireland or Northern Ireland.

He says this new solution must be sustainable.


Q: If this does not get through parliament, is this as far as the EU goes?

Barnier says that is a hypothetical question.

He says Boris Johnson thinks it will pass.

He says he has always avoided talking on the basis of emotion and passion. He works on the basis of fact and objectivity. He has looked for practical solutions to the problems posed by Brexit.

He says in Northern Ireland a joint committee will have a mandate.

This is a balanced agreement, he says. He says it is “the best possible one”.

The backstop has been replaced with a new approach.

This justifies the consent procedure, he says.

He says this is a dynamic compromise between the UK and the EU.

Boris Johnson has said he is confident he can get deal through parliament, says Barnier

Q: Did you get an assurance that Johnson would get a majority for this?

Barnier says, when Boris Johnson spoke to Jean-Claude Juncker this morning, he presumes Johnson had faith in his ability to get a majority. He has said he has confidence in his ability to win the vote.

  • Boris Johnson has said he is confident he can get his deal through parliament, says Barnier.

Q: MPs have voted against a deal three times. Has Boris Johnson assured you he can get this through?

Barnier says he has some experience here. That is why is is being “cautious”.

The House of Commons will have to take its decision.

Barnier says he was an MP. He knows what it means to be a parliamentarian.

He says the agreement is “fair and reasonable”, to use Boris Johnson’s words. (See 10.36am.)

He says has never wanted to give a commentary on British political debate.

Barnier says agreement can be ratified by 31 October

Q: Can the deal be ratified at this summit? Or will there need to be another one?

Barnier says there will be “no ratification at the council” today.

The council will be able to give a favourable opinion on the recommendation, and on the draft agreement. It is a draft, he stresses.

He says the council has to formally agree the agreement after the European parliament has ratified it.

He says there should be “no surprises” here.

He says he has done what he has done to ensure member states are well informed.

He says he believes it can be ratified by 31 October.

Text of new Brexit agreement published

Barnier says the text of the agreement is now available.

It is here (pdf) - all 64 pages of it. These are the revisions to the withdrawal agreement. The rest of the agreement as negotiated by Theresa May still stands.


Barnier confirms DUP has lost its veto over whether new Northern Ireland arrangements come into force

Barnier switches to speaking in English (he was speaking in French) and turns to the one aspect of the agreement the UK wanted to reopen – the backstop.

He says the EU wanted to keep the border open, preserve the all-island economy and protect the integrity of the single market.

And it was important for Boris Johnson to keep NI in the UK customs territory.

He says the talks have “at times been difficult”.

But they have a deal, with four parts.

First, EU regulations will apply to all goods in Northern Ireland. This means checks at the border.

Second, NI will remain in the UK’s customs territory. It will therefore benefit from UK trade policy. But it will remain an entry point into the single market. So UK authorities will apply UK tariffs to countries coming from third countries as long as goods entering NI are not at risk of entering the single market. If they are at risk of entering the single market, EU tariffs will apply.

Third, on VAT, the plan will maintain the integrity of the single market, while respecting the UK’s digital wishes.

And, fourth, there will be a consent mechanism. Four years after the arrangements starts, the Northern Ireland assembly will decide by a simple majority if these arrangements stay.

  • Barnier confirms that the DUP will lose its veto on whether the new arrangements come into force. Under the plan proposed by Boris Johnson earlier this month, the new plan for NI would only have taken affect subject to a vote in the assembly – which the DUP would have been able to veto.


Barnier says the transition will last until the end of 2020. But it could last another year or two years, if there is joint agreement.

Barnier says citizens have always been, and will remain, the EU’s priority.

Uncertainty for them has been going on for too long, he says.

There is also certainty for groups getting funding from the EU budget. That is because financial commitments made by the EU28 will be honoured by the EU28.

He says there is more certainty for businesses.

Michel Barnier's press conference

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, is holding a press conference now.

He says the EU has built its position together.

The agreement has been agreed. Boris Johnson will present it to the EU27 later at the summit.

He says the text should provide “legal certainty”, especially for citizens.

Corbyn claims deal 'even worse than Theresa May's'

The Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has issued this statement about the UK-EU Brexit deal. He said:

From what we know, it seems the prime minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May’s, which was overwhelmingly rejected.

These proposals risk triggering a race to the bottom on rights and protections: putting food safety at risk, cutting environmental standards and workers’ rights, and opening up our NHS to a takeover by US private corporations.

This sell-out deal won’t bring the country together and should be rejected. The best way to get Brexit sorted is to give the people the final say in a public vote.


This is from my colleague Jennifer Rankin in Brussels.

The last compromise:

*EU law on VAT will apply in Northern Ireland.
*UK shall be responsible for collecting VAT and excise.
*Special treatment for some goods - UK could choose to apply Ireland's VAT reduced rates and exemptions in NI.
*Regular review by Joint Committee

— Jennifer Rankin (@JenniferMerode) October 17, 2019

From ITV’s Robert Peston

Attached is how a Downing Street source is selling the deal struck by @BorisJohnson. But we don’t have the legal text yet. And I don’t have to tell you what that means!

— Robert Peston (@Peston) October 17, 2019

From the Times’ Steven Swinford

Looks like DUP has lost its veto

New deal suggests consent will only be sought four years *after* the customs arrangements come into force

It can then be extended for *another* four years with a simple majority vote in NI Assembly

— Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) October 17, 2019

From Sky’s Beth Rigby

BREAK: Johnson has left Downing Street

— Beth Rigby (@BethRigby) October 17, 2019

Yesterday my colleagues Kate Proctor and Rowena Mason looked at Boris Johnson’s chances of getting his Brexit deal through the Commons. The numbers make it look difficult.

But the Spectator’s James Forsyth explains how Johnson significantly boost his chances of winning.

One thing that could make the deal pass despite the DUP's opposition would be if the EU said the choice was between this deal and no deal

— James Forsyth (@JGForsyth) October 17, 2019

But the government might have an ace up its sleeve. If the EU tells parliament the choice is between this deal and no deal, then the deal would pass.

— James Forsyth (@JGForsyth) October 17, 2019

Here are extracts from the letter from Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, to Donald Tusk, president of the European council. (See 10.38am.)

As regards the withdrawal agreement itself, negotiations focused on the protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland [ie, the backstop] and sought to identify a mutually satisfactory solution to address the specific circumstances on the island of Ireland. The negotiators also discussed the political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom. Their aim was to adjust the political declaration in a way that reflects the different level of ambition now sought by the government of the United Kingdom for the country’s future relationship with the European Union ...

I believe it is high time to complete the withdrawal process and move on, as swiftly as possible, to the negotiation on the European Union’s future partnership with the United Kingdom.

The pound has just surged through $1.29 against the US dollar, hitting a new five-month high.

Shares in UK housebuilders and banks are also rallying, as investors welcome the news that a Brexit deal has been agreed.

DUP says it is not backing deal yet

From Sky’s David Blevins

DUP: “Read our statement. It hasn’t changed.” #Brexit

— David Blevins (@skydavidblevins) October 17, 2019

That is a reference to the statement issued this morning. See 8.26am.


Juncker says UK and EU have reached 'fair and balanced agreement'

And Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European commission, has also confirmed that a deal has been agreed. He has posted this on Twitter.

🇪🇺🤝🇬🇧 Where there is a will, there is a #deal - we have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions. I recommend that #EUCO endorses this deal.

— Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) October 17, 2019

Boris Johnson says he has secured 'great new deal' with EU

This is from Boris Johnson.

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 #GetBrexitDone #TakeBackControl

— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) October 17, 2019

From RTE’s Tony Connelly

A deal has been done

— Tony Connelly (@tconnellyRTE) October 17, 2019

The Brussels press pack are all picking up the same message.

From the Times’ Brussels correspondent Bruno Waterfield.

BREXIT - white smoke from the Berlaymont....

— Bruno Waterfield (@BrunoBrussels) October 17, 2019

From the Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent James Crisp

Looks like the Brexit deal has been done.

— James Crisp (@JamesCrisp6) October 17, 2019

From my colleague Jennifer Rankin

There is a Brexit deal reports Les Échos @GGresillon

— Jennifer Rankin (@JenniferMerode) October 17, 2019

DUP 'ready to back Brexit deal', reports claim

From my colleague Daniel Boffey

Word in Brussels is that deal is now back on. DUP been squared...

— Daniel Boffey (@DanielBoffey) October 17, 2019


The Jacob Rees-Mogg business statement will now start after 11am (see 10.05am) because there is an urgent question for age verification for pornographic websites first.

Agenda for the day

It is hard to be sure what will happen in Brussels today, because there seems to be considerable uncertainty as to how the day will play out. But here is the schedule for Brexit-related events in London and Brussels as things stand now.

10.30am: Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons, makes a business statement in the Commons.

After 11.30am: MPs debate the motion for the Commons to sit on Saturday. They will also consider an amendment to it tabled by Sir Oliver Letwin designed to stop the government limiting voting on amendments on the Saturday.

From 12.30pm: EU leaders start arriving for the EU summit in Brussels.

2.30pm: The summit starts. Brexit is expected to be the first item on the agenda.

3.15pm: David Sassoli, president of the European parliament, is due to hold a press conference.

Around 6pm: Donald Tusk, the president of the European council, and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European commission, are expected to hold a press conference.

These are from RTE’s Tony Connelly in Brussels.

As a columnist on the Daily Telegraph Boris Johnson was notorious for always filing his column at the very last moment - often beyond what he had been told was the final deadline.

It now seems that the EU is getting much the same treatment.

Senior EU official: consent issue is not currently the subject of last minute negotiations.

— Tony Connelly (@tconnellyRTE) October 17, 2019

Senior EU official: at a certain point some [leader] will say before we approve the text we need to study it, we fully trust the Commission, but that could be a problem

— Tony Connelly (@tconnellyRTE) October 17, 2019

Senior EU official: People are waiting for the text, they are waiting to translate it into 23 official languages

— Tony Connelly (@tconnellyRTE) October 17, 2019

Senior EU official: consent is a key question. Is it the issue which remains open at the level of negotiators? That issue was discussed and there was agreement. But of course nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. But Barnier was clear that on consent there was agreement

— Tony Connelly (@tconnellyRTE) October 17, 2019

Senior EU official: there could be another summit before the end of October

— Tony Connelly (@tconnellyRTE) October 17, 2019

This is from Sam McBride, political editor of the News Letter in Belfast on the DUP statement. (See 8.26am.)

The DUP statement is strikingly cautious - no talk of this proposal being completely unacceptable or not the basis for negotiations. 'Our one red line' now not even mentioned. It seems an invitation to tinker around the edges of the emerging deal, which will alarm some in the DUP

— Sam McBride (@SJAMcBride) October 17, 2019

More from my colleague Daniel Boffey in Brussels

"We were told in 2018 by the UK government that the ratification process takes six months, at the beginning of 2019 we were told that it takes six weeks, and the latest is that a few days is more than enough"

— Daniel Boffey (@DanielBoffey) October 17, 2019

EU official said that the European parliament would have time to ratify if there was "a deal today".

— Daniel Boffey (@DanielBoffey) October 17, 2019

These are from the Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent James Crisp.

Senior EU official ahead of summit.
"We somehow got used to it. When Brexit is on the agenda, we should expect the unexpected. "

Boris Johnson will address the EU27 when summit convened, if he wants to, before leaving the room.

Official stresses no negotiations among leaders

— James Crisp (@JamesCrisp6) October 17, 2019

Senior EU official: Barnier will brief EU-27 leaders

"Maybe we will have a deal & maybe not.


— James Crisp (@JamesCrisp6) October 17, 2019

Official: "Maybe we will have a deal and maybe not. But one thing is clear; if we are to have a deal it will be a legally operational solution preventing a hard border on Island of Ireland, protect good friday agreement, all Ireland economy and integrity of the Single Market.

— James Crisp (@JamesCrisp6) October 17, 2019

"If those principles not respected, there will not be any deal."

Ambassadors reassured by Barnier last night that things are on track and those principles will be respected.


— James Crisp (@JamesCrisp6) October 17, 2019

Senior EU Official: "At a certain moment if there is no legal text I think someone will say this is an international treaty and I want my experts to look at it...This is an ancient tradition and i am not willing to change it"

— James Crisp (@JamesCrisp6) October 17, 2019

If no deal the #EUCO EUCO will consider options, says senior EU official

"Even if a deal is struck in coming days, the ratification of the deal before the end of October may not be possible. "

EU Parl president to set out poss times for European Parliament to ratify deal

— James Crisp (@JamesCrisp6) October 17, 2019


From my colleague Daniel Boffey

Senior EU official: even if a deal is agreed now, ratification by 31 October "may be impossible".

— Daniel Boffey (@DanielBoffey) October 17, 2019

From Reuters

MORE: Senior EU official says there will be no #Brexit negotiations with PM Boris Johnson at summit

— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) October 17, 2019

Labour says it would back putting PM's Brexit plan to referendum

On the Today programme Tony Lloyd, the shadow Northern Ireland secretary, has confirmed that Labour would push for a referendum on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. This should not be a surprise - Jeremy Corbyn has been saying for some time that if the country is facing either a no-deal Brexit or what he terms a damaging Tory Brexit, there should be a referendum – but in recent days there has been some uncertainty about what the party would do, because it also wants a general election ahead of a referendum.

But Lloyd said the party would back moves to subject Johnson’s deal to a referendum. He said:

If there is a majority for that deal, and if in turn there is an amendment moved, and that’s put to a confirmatory vote, a public vote, then, consistent with what Labour is saying that any deal ought to go back to the public, then we are almost bound to vote for that amendment ...

It would be very hard for us to support a deal [along the lines proposed by Johnson, with employment rights in the UK potentially falling behind EU standards]. Labour doesn’t have a majority in parliament. It doesn’t necessarily have a blocking minority in parliament. And on that basis if Prime Minister Johnson is able to push through a deal, even a deal that we don’t like, if an amendment were moved to subject that to the test of public opinion, that would be the right thing to do.

With Labour backing a plan to put Johnson’s deal to a referendum, it is possible, although not yet certain, that such an amendment could pass.

But what would happen then? It is almost impossible to imagine circumstances in which the government would agree to put the proposal to a referendum. Inside No 10, a no-deal Brexit is seen as preferable to a second referendum. And legislating for a referendum, and then having a campaign, would probably take several months. This suggests that, for any referendum on Johnson’s plan to actually happen, opposition MPs would have to vote for some sort of interim government to replace Johnson’s.


Boris Johnson speaks to Jean-Claude Juncker ahead of summit

This is from Mina Andreeva, the European commission’s chief spokeswoman.

🇪🇺🇬🇧 Contacts between #EU and UK teams are continuing. @JunckerEU just spoke to @BorisJohnson. Every hour and minute counts before the #EUCO. We want a #deal.

— Mina Andreeva (@Mina_Andreeva) October 17, 2019

Merkel says she cannot predict whether EU summit will conclude with Brexit deal

Speaking to the German parliament this morning, Angela Merkel, the chancellor, said she did not know whether the EU summit would conclude with a Brexit deal. But Europe would never allow violence to return to Ireland, she said. She told her MPs:

There has been movement in recent days, significant movement ... so we are on a better path than before but, today I must say very clearly, we have not reached the goal yet.

So I cannot say today how the European council will end tomorrow.

But I can say that we will not allow hate and violence to flare up on the island of Ireland again.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has arrived at 10 Downing Street, and did not respond to questions about securing an exit deal, the Press Association reports.

DUP statement in full

Good morning. I’m Andrew Sparrow, taking over from Nadeem Badshah.

Here is the full text of the DUP statement issued earlier. It was sent out as a statement from Arlene Foster, the party leader, and Nigel Dodds, her deputy. They said:

We have been involved in ongoing discussions with the government.

As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues and there is a lack of clarity on VAT.

We will continue to work with the government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.

Boris Johnson will seek to provide assurances to DUP, housing secretary says

The housing secretary, Robert Jenrick, said we knew the negotiations were going to be difficult and would go down to the line, but the government is “working very intensively... to try and secure a deal”.

Asked whether the prime minister would meet with the DUP today, Jenrick told BBC Breakfast:

I don’t know the exact arrangements for the next few hours, but be assured the prime minister and his team are in intensive negotiations with all parties, including with the DUP.

We want to provide sufficient comfort for the DUP and unionists in Northern Ireland to feel that the arrangements we would put in place with this deal are sufficient to give them comfort to support it.

We know there are clearly concerns on the part of the DUP and we want to try and work through these productively in the hours to come.

All sides in this do want to secure an orderly exit from the EU, and I think one is in sight, although there is clearly very significant issues to be hammered out.

Let’s wait and see.


More from Tom the painter in Athens

“In the beginning there was Boris, then there was God. Gen II”: Not long after Greece’s own eurozone drama, graffiti appears in Athens, in the Plaka district beneath the Acropolis, immortalising the man who might save Britain from Brexit - described as a one-way street in the second picture.

Greece, which adopted punishing austerity to remain in the eurozone (and by extension the EU) has been watching the Brexit drama with thinly-veiled dismay.

The Guardian’s Greek correspondent Helena Smith can reveal that Tom, the painter of these works of art, is an Irishman who has long lived in the Plaka district.


DUP statement - Snap analysis

The DUP’s statement makes clear the party cannot support the deal as it stands, but it is not closing the door completely so could be read as a final prod to Michel Barnier to compromise on the customs arrangements, consent and give more clarity on the very tricky issue of VAT.

Three routes open up from this:

1. Boris Johnson compromises more. However with three meetings in three days in Downing Street, it is unclear whether Downing Street can cede any more and ruins the prospect of a deal.

2. The EU yields to the DUP’s demands. Given the EU’s deep concern about how it can protect the single market from rogue goods on a border, with no border checks, it is difficult to see the EU cede further on customs.

3. The DUP folds at the last minute. Note its statement: “We will continue to work with the government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom”. This is leaving the door open to further changes today.

It is worth remembering that the DUP is the party that says no. “No surrender” was its slogan in its heyday when it was led by its bombastic founder, the now deceased Ian Paisley.

It is also worth remembering that it did not support the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement in 1998. And we know what happened there.


The pound fell 0.5 per cent against the dollar and the euro within minutes of the announcement by the DUP just before 7am that the party cannot support the Brexit deal as it currently stands.

A pound was worth 1.2759 dollars and 1.1525 euros.

If you are wondering what exactly is in the deal, our Brussels correspondent Jennifer Rankin got a briefing last night.

The other big constraint is time. Several EU ambassadors are very unhappy there is no legal text they can share with their capitals.

Not enough time to prepare the summit. Not enough time until 31 October. But tonight there was no talk of extension.

To be continued...

— Jennifer Rankin (@JenniferMerode) October 16, 2019


There is a potentially pivotal day ahead with the EU summit ahead of Saturday’s deadline to prevent a delay to Brexit.

Boris Johnson is on his way to Brussels this morning.

Our Brexit correspondent Lisa O’Carroll on the DUP’s decision.

Useful today to remember something about the DUP. It also said no and did not support the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. And we know what happened there. This is something Arlene Foster herself has referred to recently pointing out that they still work with the BGFA

— lisa o'carroll (@lisaocarroll) October 17, 2019


Good morning everyone. More reaction to the DUP’s statement.

Hmmm....oh dear.....

— Daniel Boffey (@DanielBoffey) October 17, 2019

That’s it from me, I’m handing over to my colleague Nadeem Badshah.

Brexit talks seem to have foundered - because as I mentioned yesterday - DUP cannot accept VAT proposals for Northern Ireland. No legal text for EU leaders to agree today therefore

— Robert Peston (@Peston) October 17, 2019

DUP issues statement saying the 'could not support' deal as it stands

The DUP has issued a statement from Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds saying that “as things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues and there is a lack of clarity on VAT.

“We will continue to work with the Government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.”


— DUP (@duponline) October 17, 2019


For those of you who missed this, late last night Louise Ellman, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, announced she was leaving the Labour Party because she could “no longer advocate voting Labour when it risks Corbyn becoming PM”.

Dame Louise, 73, who is Jewish, said she had been “deeply troubled” by the “growth of anti-Semitism” in Labour in recent years.

She told the Times newspaper that if he became prime minister “I believe that Jeremy Corbyn would be a danger to the country, a danger to the Jewish community as well, but a danger to the country too”.

I have made the truly agonising decision to leave the Labour Party after 55 years. I can no longer advocate voting Labour when it risks Corbyn becoming PM. I will continue to serve the people of Liverpool Riverside as I have had the honour to do since 1997.

— Louise Ellman MP (@LouiseEllman) October 16, 2019


Lord Adonis is up and tweeting early, as he often does. He is reiterating his view that Johnson will end up being forced to ask the EU for an extension beyond 31 October.

Obviously Parliament cannot vote tomorrow on a deal which has not been agreed, let alone published, as a legal text. So he will still have to apply for an extension, which is the key operative fact today

— Andrew Adonis (@Andrew_Adonis) October 17, 2019


Brexit first on agenda which suggests EU council reckons there is deal to be done... might yet depend on the mood the DUP wakes up in or what assurances they got from No 10 last night or in the next few hours

— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) October 17, 2019

How the papers covered it

A photograph of Boris Johnson walking behind a metal fence, which gives the unfortunate impression that the prime minster was behind bars, provided a visual metaphor too good for most publications to pass up and it is the lead image on most of the front pages.

The Telegraph really pushes the image, its slightly baffling headline is: “Brexit is like the Shawshank Redemption... but now we can see the light”. The Daily Express has: “Against all odds, Boris closes in on Brexit deal”, the Times reports: “Brexit deal on knife edge as DUP blocks Johnson”, the Mail says: “In sight of the summit”, the Guardian has: “Johnson in last-minute scramble for DUP backing”, the Mirror goes with: “Brexit on a knife-edge”, the i’s splash is: “Deadlock on Brexit deal ahead of summit”.

The front page of tomorrow’s Daily Telegraph: ‘Brexit is like the Shawshank Redemption … but now we can see the light’ #TomorrowsPaperToday

— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) October 16, 2019

Tomorrow's front page: Brexit on a knife-edge #tomorrowspaperstoday

— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) October 16, 2019

MAIL UPDATED: In sight of the Summit #TomorrowsPapersToday

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) October 16, 2019

FT: Hargreaves Lansdown under fire as Woodford collapse traps clients #TomorrowsPapersToday

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) October 16, 2019

Guardian front page, Thursday 17 October 2019: Johnson in last-minute scramble for DUP backing

— The Guardian (@guardian) October 16, 2019

EXPRESS: Against all odds #TomorrowsPapersToday

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) October 16, 2019

TGE TIMES: Brexit deal on knife edge as DUP blocks Johnson / Culture Secretary opens door to making BBC subscription service #TomorrowsPapersToday

— Neil Henderson (@hendopolis) October 16, 2019

Boris Johnson is in a race against time to secure the Democratic Unionist party’s backing for his newly negotiated Brexit deal as EU leaders said they were ready to approve the agreement on Thursday if the prime minister succeeds.

Plans to publish a full legal text ahead of the leaders’ summit had to be put on hold to the frustration of EU officials after the DUP raised a series of objections to the tentative agreement.

With time short, Johnson told a meeting of Conservative MPs he was hopeful of a deal but it felt like he was on the Hillary Step of Mount Everest while the summit was “shrouded in mist”.

The prime minister appeared to have the party’s hardline Eurosceptics onboard, including Steve Baker, who said Johnson had briefed them that the whole of the UK was leaving the customs union. But they also added a note of caution that they could not vote for any Brexit deal without seeing a legal text. The 21 former Tory MPs who have recently lost their whip could also rebel.

An issue over VAT was said by Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, to be a last-minute obstacle in the negotiations when he briefed European ambassadors on Wednesday night. But the British objection was described by EU diplomats as a “British smokescreen” to give Downing Street more time to win over the DUP’s leader, Arlene Foster.

Good (very early!) morning to everyone.

We’re up with the sparrows because there is talk that Boris Johnson might make an early-morning dash to Brussels to get his Brexit deal done.

This would require the support of the Democratic Unionist Party, who have raised serious concerns with the deal. But, if the DUP come around and agree to support the deal, Johnson can then take it back to EU leaders who are meeting in Brussels today, who have said they will give political agreement to it during their summit. They will still need to have the text scrutinised before giving formal approval and it also remains to be seen whether the UK parliament will agree to the deal on Saturday, when they are sitting to vote on the potential deal.

No one knows what will happen and we’ve all been round the Brexit deal merry-go-round more times we care to remember, but there’s a sense that today could be a BIG MOMENT in this journey.

I will be shepherding us all through the Brexit news for the first few hours before I hand over to my colleagues, who will take you through the rest of the day.

Thanks for reading along, especially at such an outrageously early hour, please get in touch via Twitter or email (


Andrew Sparrow, Nadeem Badshah, Kate Lyons and Kevin Rawlinson

The GuardianTramp

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