Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party says it won't support the Brexit deal proposed by Boris Johnson and the EU in a blow to the British prime minister.
European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker congratulated British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on their Brexit withdrawal deal Thursday and said it meant there would be "no further delay".
"We have a deal, and this deal means there is no need for any kind of prolongation," Juncker told reporters as he welcomed the British leader to EU headquarters ahead of summit talks.
British MPs are expected to vote on the deal on Saturday. Pro-EU parliamentarians hope they can defeat it and Brexit can still be delayed to allow a general election or a new referendum on whether to leave the EU at all.
Arriving later at an EU summit of leaders expected to endorse the new withdrawal plan, Juncker said he hoped British MPs would pass the plan as agreed so that Britain can leave on October 31.
"There will be no prolongation. There is not an argument for further delay – it has to be done now," he said.
"We have a deal. The British prime minister has to make sure it passes the hurdles of the British parliament. I was ruling out any sort of prolongation. We have a deal.
"I'm satisfied that we were able to find a deal. I'm sad that Britain will be leaving the European Union," he said, adding that Johnson agreed that there should be no more delay.
"We've got a great new deal that takes back control," Johnson wrote on Twitter, calling on lawmakers in London to approve the agreement on Saturday. His ally, Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party remained opposed to the outline Brexit deal.
"The anti-democratic backstop has been abolished. The people of Northern Ireland will be in charge of the laws that they live by, and – unlike the backstop – will have the right to end the special arrangement if they so choose," Johnson tweeted.
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
The draft agreement was forged just weeks before Britain was due to leave the bloc on October 31, ending more than four decades of close economic and political ties with its nearest neighbours.
Juncker recommended that the other 27 EU leaders endorse the deal.
🇪🇺🤝🇬🇧 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. pic.twitter.com/7AfKyCZ6k9— Jean-Claude Juncker (@JunckerEU) October 17, 2019
New deal avoids chaotic UK departure
Donald Tusk, who as president of the European Council will chair the summit of European Union leaders later, has voiced his relief that a new Brexit agreement has been sealed which avoids a chaotic UK departure from the bloc at the end of the month.
However, he said it is "not a happy day for Europe".
Ahead of the summit, Tusk told Polish reporters that a "deal is a much better scenario than no deal".
Tusk said it was important that the deal agreed by Johnson and the EU had received a positive response from Ireland and that he would make that his first point at the summit later.
Tusk says it's up to Johnson now to sell the deal to the British Parliament which is due to vote on it on Saturday.
Incoming EU Commission head backs Brexit deal
The next president of the European Union's executive arm Ursula von der Leyen says the Brexit agreement between the EU and the British government bodes well for their future relationship.
Von der Leyen, who is set to replace Jean-Claude Juncker in December, said the agreement is "good for people on both side, good for the economy on both sides" and respects the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to Northern Ireland.
Von der Leyen, who will attend the two-day meeting in Brussels alongside EU leaders, said Brexit is not the end of something, it's a good starting point for a future relationship."
Northern Ireland's loyalists
One immediate hurdle is opposition from Johnson's allies in Northern Ireland, which pre-emptively rejected the compromise.
The agreement would see the British-ruled province remain under EU customs and Value Added Tax (VAT) rules, and the loyalist DUP announced that it can not support it.
It is not clear how many of Johnson's Conservative MPs will back the deal, and if the British opposition could vote it down or attempt to force a nationwide referendum to approve or reject it.
The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator said the deal with Britain answers the uncertainty created by Brexit and added: "We have delivered, and we have delivered together."
In a first reaction, Michel Barnier said that Britain now agrees to pay its financial commitments to the EU, something which has been estimated at around 39 billion pounds.
The DUP, a key ally of Johnson, said it stood by a statement issued earlier by leader Arlene Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds.
"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", the DUP, which backs Johnson's government, said in a brief statement on Twitter.
"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."
The party said on Thursday its position had not changed.
Arrangements are key to guaranteeing an open border between the UK's Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland, which has been the main obstacle to a Brexit deal.
Without the support of the DUP's 10 lawmakers, Johson may struggle to get his deal ratified by the UK Parliament.