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Britain, European Union Reach Deal on Brexit

2019-10-17

British and European Union officials say they have reached a deal on amended terms for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. The deal was announced Thursday, more than three years after Britons voted to leave the 28-member union.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson must win a vote in parliament to get the agreement approved.

“We have a great new Brexit deal,” Johnson said. Politicians and the media have been using the term Brexit for the proposed withdrawal.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shakes hands with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during a press point at EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shakes hands with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker during a press point at EU headquarters in Brussels, Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019.

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker also expressed satisfaction with the agreement.

“It is high time to complete the divorce process and move on, as swiftly as possible, to the negotiation on the European Union’s future partnership with the United Kingdom (UK),” Juncker said in a letter.

“Where there is a will there is a deal - we have one!” he wrote on the social networking service Twitter. “It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is a testament to our commitment to find solutions.”

His tweet appeared before the start of an EU meeting in Brussels.

Johnson must now secure approval for the amended deal in a special session of parliament on Saturday. If approved, the agreement would lead to an orderly withdrawal from the EU on October 31.

Johnson had threatened to take Britain out of the EU at the end of the month with or without a deal. Many people worried a no-deal Brexit would cause serious damage to the British economy.

The head of Britain’s main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said he was “unhappy” with the deal and would vote against it. Lawmakers in his party said they had been told to support calls for a special referendum when they meet on Saturday. A new nationwide vote would reopen the decision to leave the EU.

For the agreement to be approved, Johnson needs the backing of the Northern Irish Democratic Union Party, or DUP. The party has said it will not support the deal.

The most difficult part of any Brexit agreement has been the question of the border between Ireland and the British province of Northern Ireland.

The border is now completely open. The problem was how to keep it open once Britain leaves the EU. Setting up border checkpoints, many feared, would endanger the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which ended years of conflict in Northern Ireland.

Leaving the border open would undermine Britain’s desire to control trade agreements.

Negotiators worked this week to find a compromise on the question of the Irish border.

The amended agreement reached would keep Northern Ireland in the UK trade area. Tariffs will be placed on goods crossing from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland if they are going to Ireland or other EU member states.

However, the Democratic Unionist Party said the new wording was not acceptable. The party supports Johnson’s government.

The prime minister has no majority in the 650-seat parliament. The Reuters news agency notes that he needs at least 318 votes to get a deal approved.

I’m Susan Shand.

The Reuters News Agency reported this story. Susan Shand adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

divorce – n. an official declaration ending a marriage between two people

swiftly adj. quickly; fast or soon

testament – n. proof or evidence that something exists or is true

commitment – n. an agreement or promise

session – n. a meeting or series of meetings

checkpoint – n. a place where people and vehicles are searched by someone (such as a police officer) before being permitted to continue

undermine – v. to make someone or something weaker or less effective usually in a secret or gradual way

tariffs – n. a tax on good coming into or leaving a country