‘We have a deal.’ (Now for the hard part)

Threat: DUP veto leaves Johnson’s gamble in the balance. © FT

Is it 13 days to Brexit? Yes, if you believe the Prime Minister. No, if you listen to the pundits. Now, it’s a numbers game and the focus is on a historic sitting of the Commons tomorrow.

There are four things you need to know this morning.

First, the UK may leave the EU in 13 days.

Second, Boris Johnson got a deal yesterday that many thought was impossible.

Rory Stewart, former Tory leadership contender now running for Mayor of London, is being roundly mocked today for his assertion that there was “not the slightest hope” of any deal. He has bravely tweeted the words: “I got it wrong.”

Third, to get there, Johnson has made some spectacular concessions, including some that he had said were unthinkable.

The UK will have a form of customs border within it, between Britain and Northern Ireland. This means that Northern Ireland will be subject to EU regulations on goods, unlike Britain.

Fourth, it all hangs on Parliament tomorrow. This will be a real showdown.

Johnson needs to get a majority of MPs to support the deal. Without the support of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), this looks very difficult. So far, the DUP has said it will not support the deal but is still open to talks.

Johnson told colleagues late last night that without the support of the 10 DUP MPs for his deal, which was agreed swiftly in Brussels yesterday after months of haggling, he could not be certain of winning the crucial Commons vote tomorrow.

The Prime Minister’s decision to strike a deal in Brussels without DUP support — Number 10 has had minimal contact with the party since Wednesday night — represents a massive political gamble.

He hopes to force the DUP and other MPs critical of the Brexit deal to back the deal tomorrow or face the prospect of a no-deal exit.

Jean-Claude Juncker, European Commission president, said there would be no extension to the Brexit process beyond 31 October but Donald Tusk, president of the European Council, refused to rule out a further extension.

Nigel Dodds, deputy leader of the DUP, said the UK Prime Minister was “too eager by far to get a deal at any cost”, because of his determination to avoid an extension to the Brexit process.

Meanwhile, Labour and other MPs from the so-called “rebel alliance” stepped up efforts to put any deal to a second referendum.

If Johnson’s deal fails, they plan to revive former Prime Minister Theresa May’s old deal — with added guarantees on workers’ rights and the climate crisis — and put that to a referendum instead.

Many members have yet to declare how they will vote tomorrow. It will be the first Saturday sitting of Parliament since Argentina’s invasion of the Falkland Islands in 1982.

Deal or no deal

No deal, say most political analysts today. The Conservatives do not have a majority in the House, so Johnson has to assemble a coalition of MPs to back him. The Financial Times, this morning, estimates 321 MPs could vote against the deal, with 318 supporting it.

But there is a tide of emotion in favour of a deal. Witness Britain’s biggest newspapers today. The Sun front page says: “Message to dithering MPs: GET REAL ...TAKE THE DEAL!” The Daily Mail front page says: “Against all the odds Boris has won a new Brexit deal — yet tomorrow our reckless political class may derail it. So, today the Mail says...HE’S DONE HIS DUTY. NOW MPS MUST DO THEIRS.” Politics is about the heart as well as the head. This populist passion could sway the result.

You Decide

  1. Is politics more about emotion than logic?
  2. “Boris Johnson looks as though he is enjoying every minute of it.” Is that the most important characteristic of a successful politician?

Activities

  1. Write a letter to your MP, telling them how to vote tomorrow.
  2. Using the Expert Links, research the differences between the Johnson deal and the May deal. Try to write a numbered list summarising them.

Some People Say...

“Parliament should now bring a swift end to this four-year drama by voting for it tomorrow.”

The Times leader column this morning

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Government whips, who serve as business managers in the Commons, will turn the screws on Tory MPs over the next 48 hours. “Our whipping is going to be medieval,” said one government official. Out of the 287 Tory MPs, nearly all are expected to back the deal, including most of the 28 hardline Eurosceptic Conservatives — dubbed the Spartans — who voted repeatedly against Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.
What do we not know?
How many other MPs can be persuaded to back the deal. Until now, the number of rebel Labour MPs talking to Downing Street about supporting Johnson’s deal has been only in single figures — up to nine, who mainly represent Leave constituencies. They are not all certain to back the agreement tomorrow.

Word Watch

Concessions
A thing that is granted, especially in response to demands.
Customs border
Border controls are measures taken by a country, or a bloc of countries to monitor borders in order to regulate the movement of people, animals and goods.
Democratic Unionist Party
A political party in Northern Ireland favouring British identity or union with Britain — hence the name. It was founded in 1971 by Ian Paisley, who led the party for the next 37 years.
No-deal exit
It means the UK would leave the European Union (EU) with no agreements in place about what the relationship between the UK and the EU will be like in future. This includes special agreements about how UK and EU companies could work and trade with each other.
Second referendum
A referendum on the Brexit withdrawal agreement, also referred to as a “second referendum” or a “people's vote” has been proposed by a number of politicians and pressure groups as a way to break the deadlock in Parliament.
Populist
A broad political idea that emphasises the idea of “the people” and often opposes this group against “the elite”.

Subjects

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