It took six days of talks between Brussels and London to give birth to a divorce treaty. It remains to be seen whether this agreement has a chance of being approved by British MPs.
It is barely 18 hours, Thursday, October 17. Boris Johnson enters a packed press room on the second floor of the Justus Lipsius building, which houses the European Council in Brussels. Everyone wants to see "Boris", who managed, against all odds, to get his deal in the morning.
"We have a great deal," assures the British prime minister, still as energetic. "We have a good "deal" " confirms German Chancellor Angela Merkel, two rooms next door, in her own way, more sober. Everyone seems happy. Relieved at least.
The texts of the divorce agreement between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom have just been made public; the diplomats of the member countries did not even have time to read them. Some are worried. All negotiators know that the devil is hiding in the details. And, everyone is aware, the hardest remains to be done: that the "deal" be approved by British MPs. "I am not responsible for ratification by the House of Commons. It's Boris' job », launches tongue-in-cheek, Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission.
The Luxembourger did not sleep much. "I phoned Boris twice during the night"he said. Because until mid-morning, nothing was bent. At the end, European negotiations often look like this: roller coasters. Hope in the morning, pump at noon, renewed hope in the late afternoon, discouragement in the evening … The final straight Brexit has not departed from the rule.
Wednesday night, the "deal" seemed at hand. The negotiators agreed on the major topics of customs controls, the North Irish veto and the political declaration intended to outline the future relationship between the UK and its ex-EU partners. There remained the question of VAT.
But on Thursday morning, the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) felt that" as is ", conditions were not in place for an agreement to be viable. But without Protestant unionists, Boris Johnson has no chance of getting the text ratified in the House of Commons … " There will be a "deal" or there will be no "deal" " it was said, laconically, the Council Thursday late morning. So there was a deal.