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Brexit – The Next Steps

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Boris Johnson has insisted he is “very confident” that his Brexit deal will be approved by the House of Commons in a historic knife-edge vote on Saturday, even without the backing of the DUP.

Boris Johnson will give MPs a “my deal or no deal” ultimatum on Saturday after the EU ruled out another Brexit extension.

“I want to stress that this is a great deal for our country, for the UK; I also believe that it is a very good deal for our friends in the EU,” Johnson said at the European council in Brussels, where EU leaders signed off on the last-minute deal.

The Guardian reports that Johnson hopes to frame Saturday’s House of Commons clash as a dramatic “new deal or no deal” moment – but EU leaders declined to come to his aid in Brussels by ruling out any further delay to Brexit.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the the Prime Minister said “now is the moment for us to get Brexit done” after Britain and the EU came to a last-minute agreement in Brussels on Thursday morning.

He made it clear that Saturday’s Commons vote on the deal will represent the final opportunity for Britain to leave the EU with a deal, otherwise a no deal Brexit will go ahead on Oct 31.

Johnson will try to get his deal through Parliament without the support of the DUP, which said it “drives a coach and horses” through the Good Friday Agreement. Some Tory hardliners, including Iain Duncan Smith, said they would wait until Saturday morning before making up their minds how to vote.

The Daily Telegraph understands that between 10 and 15 Labour MPs are now prepared to back the deal, to avoid the risk of a no deal Brexit. Their votes would almost certainly be decisive in a result that remains too close to call. If Mr Johnson loses the vote, he will be obliged by law to write to Brussels asking for an extension to Article 50.

The Financial Times reports that remain-minded MPs will still try to attach a referendum to the deal. Some of the expelled Tories may also now support such a move. This may be voted on at the special sitting of the Commons on Saturday, or later, in the committee stages of the legislation required by the deal. Some pro-referendum MPs worry that attaching a second vote to the deal on Saturday would persuade Tory hardliners to vote the whole plan down.

If it passes, the new agreement will represent a significant political success for Mr Johnson, who always maintained the EU would move once things went down to the wire. The EU had said it would not reopen the withdrawal agreement or reimagine the Irish backstop. Mr Johnson forced them to do so and has secured changes. He has replaced the UK-wide backstop, so hated by Conservative MPs because it had no unilateral escape mechanism, with one specific to Northern Ireland only. Great Britain (the UK minus Northern Ireland) will be free to strike trade deals.

However, in effect Mr Johnson has largely swapped Theresa May’s UK-wide backstop, which was part of the withdrawal agreement she failed to get through the Commons three times, for a Northern Ireland-only backstop. The EU originally offered this solution two years ago. The EU has not abandoned any of its major red lines. That said, there are some important changes. The prime minister has secured a democratic escape mechanism from the backstop for Northern Ireland — a withdrawal of consent by the devolved Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont — but its nature makes it hard to envisage it ever being used. So this arrangement is not designed to be temporary; this is a settled status for Northern Ireland.

Telegraph / Financial Times / The Guardian

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