Boris Johnson has agreed a Brexit deal with the EU, leading to a surge in sterling and much excitement at Westminster. The question now is whether the pact will be approved in the key Commons vote on Saturday.
The consensus at Westminster at this moment is that Mr Johnson doesn’t have the numbers. The Democratic Unionist party has made clear it won’t back the deal “as it stands”. Without its support, it’s hard to see how it gets through the Commons.
James Forsyth in The Spectator has a good assessment of where the problem lies. He says Mark Spencer, the Conservative chief whip, calculated last night that if the DUP backs Mr Johnson, the government will win on Saturday with a majority of just one.
That majority would be made up of all Tory MPs, 15 independent Conservatives, the DUP plus nine Labour rebels in Leave constituencies who would be defying their own party whip.
But without the DUP, Mr Johnson needs 19 Labour MPs to back him. My FT colleague Jim Pickard says that getting that many Labour MPs to back a Johnson deal would be very hard indeed.
How could the dynamics change in the next 48 hours? One possibility, which Downing Street is actively pursuing, is that the European Council should declare tonight that if the deal doesn’t go through it won’t give the UK the three-month extension demanded by the Benn Act.
If the EU did that, it would mean that failure to pass the vote on Saturday would plunge the UK into a no-deal Brexit on October 31.
That would certainly concentrate minds at Westminster. It might push the DUP over the line, as well as attracting more Labour MPs towards the Johnson deal. But this would be an extraordinarily high-risk strategy for the EU to adopt. I find it hard to believe it would go down that road.
It might be that Mr Johnson has resigned himself to losing on Saturday. He may take the view that, in that situation, he can go into a general election brandishing the deal he has signed and saying he would have taken the UK out of the EU on October 31 if only parliament had allowed him. He would then call on voters to give him the parliamentary support he needs to get the pact through.
The other possibility, of course, is that the DUP caves at the last minute. Right now, it is hard to see what can possibly change the DUP’s minds, given that the Brexit deal is now signed and sealed.
But after three-and-a-half years, parliament, the EU and much of the British public are utterly fatigued by the Brexit process and want Britain to move on. There is something about the atmosphere in British politics that makes one think that — somehow — Mr Johnson will get what he wants on Saturday.
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The Boris Johnson Brexit deal dissected “Britain will be set on course, however, for a hard Brexit with an awful lot of its future still up for negotiation. The clock will start ticking again to a new deadline on securing a trade deal. Mr Johnson will claim to have met his pledge to ‘get Brexit done’. In fact, Brexit will only just be getting started.” (Robert Shrimsley, FT)
Here’s why Boris Johnson’s plans have every chance of falling apart (Tom Kibasi, The Guardian)
Johnson the negotiator has been more robust than May — but less intransigent (Andrew Gimson, ConservativeHome)
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