historic day and vote in the British Parliament

The House of Commons meets exceptionally Saturday to decide on the new divorce agreement between London and Brussels.

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An anti-Brexit protester in front of Parliament in London on 17 October.
An anti-Brexit protester in front of Parliament in London on 17 October. KIRSTY WIGGLESWORTH / AP

It is a capital vote with a very uncertain outcome, and this only twelve days before the planned exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU). The British deputies meet on Saturday, October 19, to decide the fate of the agreement reached in extremis, Thursday, October 17, between the government of Boris Johnson and the Twenty-Seven.

Taken out of laborious negotiations, the agreement is supposed to settle the conditions of the divorce after 46 years of life, allowing a smooth exit accompanied by a period of transition current at least until the end of 2020.

But its success is suspended by the approval of the British Parliament, which has already been intransigent in the past. MEPs rejected three times the previous exit agreement between former prime minister Theresa May and the other 27 EU members.

Convened for the first time on a Saturday since the Falklands War 37 years ago, the House of Commons will open at 9:30 am (10:30 am in France), for debates that could last all day.

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Boris Johnson plays big

Boris Johnson has spent all his efforts in recent days to convince members to support his agreement, chaining phone calls and interventions on television. Arguing that there was "No better way out" that his agreement to leave the EU on October 31, the Prime Minister invited elected officials to imagine a world where the obstacle of Brexit, which paralyzes the British political life for three years, will take "Been overwhelmed". "I think the nation will breathe a great sigh of relief", he added.

If the agreement is approved, it will still have to be validated by the European Parliament.

In case of rejection, Saturday, Boris Johnson has always said he preferred a release without agreement to a new deadline, the Brexit has already been postponed twice. But a law passed by the Parliament requires him to ask for a postponement of three months to the EU.

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The prospect of a Brexit without agreement is feared by economic circles, because it could lead, according to the forecasts of the government itself, shortages of food, gasoline or drugs.

Boris Johnson, without a majority in Westminster, needs 320 votes to validate his agreement. Opposition parties have already announced that they oppose it: the centrist liberal Democratic party (19 votes) and the Scottish nationalists SNP (35 votes) are anti-Brexit, the Labor Party (242 votes) believes that the new agreement weakens the rights of workers, the Greens (1 vote) it does not respect the environment …

Above all, it stuck with the North-Irish Unionists of the DUP (10 votes), yet allies of Boris Johnson in the House of Commons, for whom the text grants a different status to Northern Ireland and isolates the British province from the rest of the country.

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The divided British society

The government hopes to convince some Labor and independents, including the MPs excluded from the Conservative Party because they opposed a "no deal".

If the Parliament is divided, so is the British society, more than three years after the referendum of June 2016 which decided at 52% of the departure of the United Kingdom from the European bloc. While debates will be in full swing to settle the terms of the divorce, an anti-Brexit protest is planned in Westminster to push for a second referendum.

The decision of the deputies will also be scrutinized across the Channel. Several European leaders urged them to approve the agreement in order to move to the next phase of the negotiations, which will determine the future relationship between the EU and the UK.

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No "new deadlines" for Macron

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, warned that a rejection of the text would lead to "Very complicated situation", while French President Emmanuel Macron has spoken out against "New deadlines".

Boris Johnson's agreement is supposed to solve the squaring of the circle of the Irish border, on which the process had stumbled until now. The aim is to avoid the return of a physical border between British Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, a member of the EU, to preserve peace on the island.

To this end, it maintains Northern Ireland on paper in the British customs territory but provides for a special regime for goods arriving in the province, depending on whether they are destined to remain there or to enter the single European market.

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