The withdrawal agreement was completed just in time for EU leaders to assess it when they meet later Thursday in the Belgian capital. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hailed it as “fair and balanced.”
If the deal is approved, Mr. Johnson will draw a line under three years of political turmoil since the U.K. voted to leave the world’s biggest trading bloc. That journey has strained its relationship with historic allies, soured the political debate at home and tested the patience of voters.
Negotiators in Brussels and London this week have gone from optimism to dismay and back again, with the pound twitching at every murmur. It rallied on news of the deal, touching $1.2990 before paring gains.
In a revised political declaration, the two sides pledged to:
- Establish a wide-ranging free trade agreement.
- Reach a deal on services that goes beyond WTO levels.
- Agree equivalence for financial services firms.
- Allow free movement of capital.
- Establish visa-free travel for short-term visits.
- Commit to a level playing field, with common high standards in state aid, competition, welfare, tax, and environmental matters.
Now, the many predictions about the costs or benefits of Brexit may be put to the test. At the very least, businesses and travelers may be spared the inevitable disruption that would have been triggered by Britain crashing out without a deal. For both sides, the agreement is a chance to move their political agendas on and to start focusing on their future trading relationship.
EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told reporters in Brussels that he believes the deal can be ratified by the end of October. He called it a “fair and reasonable basis for an orderly withdrawal” by the U.K.
In a nod to the painful wrangling of the past three years, he also compared getting the deal done to climbing a mountain.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called for a second referendum, saying in Brussels that Mr. Johnson’s deal — which he described as a “sellout” — was worse than that put forward by predecessor Theresa May.
Most importantly Mr. Johnson, who became the face of Brexit during the 2016 referendum campaign, needs to convince the DUP he is not selling them out and to persuade Brexit true-believers that this is a real separation rather than a pointless fudge.
Certainly, die-hard Brexiteers are sounding like they could hold their noses and let Mr. Johnson’s deal fly.
“The deal sounds like it could well be tolerable,” said Steve Baker, who leads that faction in Parliament.