Boris Johnson is entering the most crucial 24 hours of his premiership as he attempts to get his Brexit deal over the line with the help of Labour rebels.
The Prime Minister is said to have begun attempts to entice Jeremy Corbyn’s backbenchers from Leave areas in the North and Midlands to side with him and get the UK out of the EU.
He is said to have suggested measures to protect workers’ rights in a bid to placate opposition MPs and get them on his side.
But even with Labour rebellion he faces an uphill task in Saturday’s historic Commons vote, with his supposed allies the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) confirming they will line up alongside Mr Corbyn to oppose it.
The hardline Northern Irish loyalists are furious as what they see as Mr Johnson’s sell-out of the province in the deal struck in Brussels yesterday.
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the party would not abstain – which would have helped the Government – but would stand ‘solid as the Rock of Gibraltar’ against it.
The DUP Brexit spokesman told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I can give you absolute assurance we will not be voting for this deal when it comes before the Commons tomorrow.’
The Prime Minister is said to have begin attempts to entice Jeremy Corbyn’s backbenchers from Leave areas in the North and Midlands to side with him and get the UK out of the EU
DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the party would not abstain – which would have helped the Government – but would stand ‘solid as the Rock of Gibraltar’ against it
Reports suggest that the DUP believes as many as 15 members of the Tory European Research Group of hardline Brexiteers will join it in voting against the deal, despite being threatened with the loss of the party whip.
Labour rebels and Tories coming in from the cold: The MPs backing Boris
Leave-supporting Labour MPs, soft Brexit-backing former Tories and hardline Brexiteers who opposed Theresa May’s deal have all indicated they will back Boris Johnson on Saturday. Boris Johnson will need them all to back him tomorrow.
Some 21 Tories lost the party whip last month after voting to block a No Deal Brexit but they do not all oppose a deal that gets the UK out.
And there are signs Mr Johnson is winning over previously adamant ERG members who never voted for a deal before.
But without the DUP’s 10 votes the size of the Labour rebellion will be key
And Mr Johnson faces another blow this morning when an influential collective of Tory eurosceptics urged MPs to vote the deal down.
The Thatcherite Bruges Group, which includes MPs John Redwood, Norman Tebbit and Lord Lamont, revealed this morning that it opposes Mr Johnson’s deal.
In a joint statement with the Bow Group and Fishing for Leave, its chairman Barry Legg said: ‘We urge members of Parliament who wish to honour the result of the Referendum to reject this defective agreement if it is put before them.’
But one Tory moderate, who is backing the deal despite misgivings, urged ‘Spartans’ to give up on their ‘wet dream’ of forcing No Deal.
‘The “no extension “ from Juncker is a two-edged sword: for Redwood, Chope and Paterson it means if the PM is defeated tomorrow we leave with no Deal which is their wet dream moment,’ they told MailOnline. ‘Hopefully more Labour people will get it and therefore vote for it. It will be tight but doable – just.’
The Prime Minister faces a knife-edge Commons vote tomorrow on what has been dubbed ‘Super Saturday’ as he attempts to get a majority for his agreement without the support of the Democratic Unionist Party.
Even if he gets the backing of all 287 Tory MPs, he will need to win over 33 others to get the 320 votes he needs for a majority.
Ministers led by Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove are mounting a major operation to get the backing of the 21 ex-Tories stripped of the whip last month over their attempt to block No Deal, as well as potential Labour rebels.
Mr Johnson is also understood to have been personally ringing around Tory backbenchers on his mobile to talk them through the proposals.
Backbenchers were also invited to briefings on the deal hosted by ministers including Mr Gove, Home Secretary Miss Patel and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
And it is understood Mr Gove, Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland held a meeting with 11 of the 21 MPs who lost the whip.
Labour’s Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell has already said he will vote for Mr Johnson’s deal
Labour’s Blyth Valley MP Ronnie Campbell has already said he will vote for Mr Johnson’s deal and all eyes will be on other backbenchers to see if they can be enticed into the Government’s voting lobby tomorrow afternoon.
Jim Fitzpatrick and Kevin Barron have also suggested they could back it.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he would ‘have a chat’ with ‘good socialist’ Mr Campbell.
He told Today: ‘On this one I’m going to have a chat with him and point out to him: please do not give this power (to weaken workers’ rights) to Boris Johnson because you know what he’ll do.
‘He’ll undermine trade union rights. Boris Johnson and those Tory MPs that populate the Cabinet, these are the extreme right who have attacked trade unions throughout their political careers.’
He added: ‘No MP, as far as I’m concerned, who has the true interest of their constituents at heart can allow that to happen.’
A graphic showing the votes the PM needs to pass his Brexit deal
This is how Boris Johnson could win over enough MPs to get his deal through Parliament. He faces a uphill struggle to win the vote on Saturday
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the Government had ‘certainly not given up’ on their DUP ‘friends’ but the responsibility was on ‘setting up the deal and to argue for its benefits and its merits in relation to Northern Ireland’.
He told the BBC ‘those that want to criticise or to block this deal will be holding Britain back’.
‘It’s not clear where they go and certainly not clear from listening to the EU that there will be any changes now, and I know they said that before and I think it’s only through this deal and through the leadership the Prime Minister has shown that we can get Brexit done and we can also get the country as a whole moving forward,’ he said.
Mr Wilson said the DUP made concessions with the Prime Minister in order to help him get a deal but suspected he would do what was best for the Conservative Party.
‘We are disappointed he didn’t stick to the red lines he said he would,’ the DUP MP said.
He argued, in the interview with the BBC, that a successful election could help Mr Johnson get a better deal.
‘I believe, with a big majority, he can be more robust in his negotiations,’ Mr Wilson added.
‘It is one of the reasons why we believe that voting this down tomorrow is not the end of the game but in fact probably opens up possibilities for the Government that are not available at present but will be after a general election.’
Mr Wilson said he suspected the EU were not able to give Mr Johnson as many concessions due to worries the PM was ‘vulnerable’ in Parliament, following the success of the Benn Act.
‘Come together’ and get it done: Boris takes his battle back to Westminster with call for MPs’ backing after securing last-gasp Brexit deal against all the odds
Boris Johnson last night urged MPs to ‘come together’ and get Brexit done after securing an extraordinary last-minute deal.
In a remarkable turnaround, the Prime Minister agreed a deal with the EU which scraps the hated Irish backstop and leaves the UK free to strike trade deals around the world.
Tomorrow he will put the deal to MPs on a historic Saturday sitting of Parliament as he continues a frantic dash to keep his pledge to take Britain out of the European Union by October 31.
In Brussels last night, Mr Johnson delivered an emphatic message to MPs, saying: ‘It hasn’t always been an easy experience for the UK.
In Brussels last night, Mr Johnson delivered an emphatic message to MPs, saying: ‘It hasn’t always been an easy experience for the UK
‘It has been long, it has been painful, it has been divisive, and now is the moment for us as a country to come together.
Channel 4’s ‘irresponsible’ IRA interview
Channel 4 News has been branded ‘recklessly irresponsible’ for giving the New IRA a platform to make terror threats over Brexit.
The broadcaster has been accused of giving ‘self-confessed murderers’ the ‘oxygen of publicity’ after it interviewed a masked spokesman for the group.
Voiced by an actor, he told Wednesday’s programme any Brexit border checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic ‘would be a legitimate target for attack and armed actions against those infrastructures and against the people who are manning them’.
Appearing on the programme Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen told presenter Cathy Newman: ‘I think the fact that you put those terror groups on your programme… is deeply irresponsible. They are a fringe group that barely represent themselves on the island of Ireland.’ Speaking to the Daily Mail yesterday, he added: ‘These terrorists don’t need an excuse to cause mayhem and murder, that’s what they do. Channel 4 shouldn’t give them either a platform or an excuse to latch on to.’
A Channel 4 News spokesman said that the interview had been of ‘overwhelming public interest at a vital time’.
‘Now this is the moment for our parliamentarians to come together and get this thing done.’
The deal came at a price, with Mr Johnson’s DUP allies refusing to back it and accusing the PM of ‘driving a coach and horses’ through the Good Friday Agreement. The loss of ten DUP MPs leaves him facing an uphill struggle to win tomorrow’s vote.
Allies of Mr Johnson believe his strenuous efforts will play well with an electorate desperate to get the tortuous Brexit process over, even if his deal is defeated by MPs.
They are gearing up for an election within weeks in which Mr Johnson will urge the public to give him a majority to finally deliver Brexit.
But David Cameron’s former spin chief, Sir Craig Oliver, warned the strategy was high-risk, saying: ‘I suspect Boris Johnson and his team think they have the numbers to pass the deal without the DUP – but even if they don’t, they get to run a populist election campaign, which should be enough. But it’s so volatile a change of just a few points could be disastrous.’
Last night a concerted effort was under way to woo Labour MPs in Leave-voting areas to back the deal in return for guarantees on workers’ rights and environmental standards. Allies of the PM believe he needs to win the support of 15 Labour MPs to have a chance of victory.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker also turned up the pressure on MPs, saying ‘there will be no prolongation’, after holding talks with Mr Johnson.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker also turned up the pressure on MPs, saying ‘there will be no prolongation’, after holding talks with Mr Johnson
In another bid to ramp up the pressure, senior Tories made it clear that Eurosceptic hardliners who voted against the deal would have the whip withdrawn.
Whips have also indicated that the 21 Tory MPs kicked out last month for helping rule out No Deal could be invited back in if they help push the deal through Parliament.
The breakthrough came as:
- Jeremy Corbyn came under fire after urging Labour MPs to reject the deal before he had even read it;
- Business leaders urged Parliament to back the deal, with the Institute of Directors warning MPs to avoid the ‘damage a disorderly exit could cause’;
- Remainer plans to force through a second referendum tomorrow collapsed into chaos and infighting;
- European Parliament chief David Sassoli said he was ‘confident’ MEPs would approve the plan;
- It emerged that the final sticking point was Mr Johnson’s insistence that Britain secure the right to scrap the hated ‘tampon tax’ throughout the UK;
- Nigel Farage faced ridicule after suggesting it would be better to delay Brexit than back Mr Johnson’s deal.
Downing Street said Mr Johnson had confounded his critics who said he was interested only in No Deal. A senior source said: ‘We were told that the EU would never reopen the Withdrawal Agreement.
We were told it was impossible to replace the backstop. We were told Northern Ireland could not leave the customs union. The PM has achieved all of those things and more.
The DUP’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds (left) criticised the PM, saying: ‘He has been too eager by far to get a deal at any cost. If he held his nerve and held out he would have got better concessions that kept the integrity of the UK’
‘This gets Great Britain totally out, with special arrangements for Northern Ireland covered by democratic consent. We are taking back control.’
Nigel Farage: It’d be better to delay Brexit
Nigel Farage claimed it would be better to delay Brexit than to accept Boris Johnson’s deal with Brussels.
The Brexit Party leader savaged the compromise agreed between the Prime Minister and the EU at a summit yesterday. He even appeared to back the law which will force Mr Johnson to delay Britain’s departure from the EU.
Under the so-called Benn Act, the UK must ask for an extension to the Brexit timetable to January next year should a deal not be passed by October 19.
Mr Farage, who favours No Deal, tweeted after EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said there should be no ‘prolongation’ of Britain’s departure.
It prompted Mr Farage to call Mr Juncker ‘an unelected, retiring bureaucrat’, adding: ‘He is overriding the Benn Act. The EU shows itself to be a thuggocracy – power without accountability.’
Earlier yesterday, Mr Farage told Sky News: ‘Look, I would much rather we had an extension and a chance of a general election than accept this dreadful new EU treaty.’
MPs are set to vote on the 11th hour agreement in an historic session in the Commons tomorrow.
A deal passing would remove the Brexit Party’s reason to exist at the next election. Mr Farage has previously suggested the Tories enter an electoral pact with his party.
He said yesterday: ‘If withdrawal agreement four fails on Saturday, as I believe it will, I think then Boris Johnson as Prime Minister would drop the idea of this new treaty and there is a possibility of putting together a Leave alliance for the next general election. I think there is an opportunity here for a Brexit alliance… that would win a big majority in Parliament.’
But a senior Tory source said Mr Farage was ‘only interested in an outcome that maximises his electoral opportunities – not what delivers for Britain’.
The new deal strips out the controversial Irish backstop and replaces it with a complex deal for Northern Ireland designed to prevent a hard border.
Under the terms of the agreement, the province will remain aligned with single market rules for all goods and will have to levy the same rate of VAT as the Irish Republic.
It will also have to accept customs checks on goods arriving from the rest of the UK – effectively a customs border in the Irish Sea, which Mr Johnson once vowed to oppose.
But, crucially, the EU also agreed to a form of democratic consent, which will give Northern Ireland the opportunity to leave the arrangement every four years if a majority in the devolved Stormont Parliament vote for it. Mr Johnson said it was ‘an excellent deal for Northern Ireland’.
But the DUP’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds criticised the PM, saying: ‘He has been too eager by far to get a deal at any cost. If he held his nerve and held out he would have got better concessions that kept the integrity of the UK.’
Mr Johnson said he was ‘very confident’ of getting the deal through. But privately, aides admit they face a fierce battle.
One senior source said: ‘MPs should get Brexit done, but they are too mad – they’re bound to vote it down.’
Failure to win the vote would leave the PM on collision course with Parliament and the courts over the controversial law that will force him to seek an extension if he has not got a deal by tomorrow night.
But last night there were signs that the 28 Eurosceptic ‘Spartan’ MPs – who voted down Theresa May’s deal three times – were warming to the agreement. Andrew Bridgen, of the European Research Group, said he was willing to back the deal despite the DUP’s opposition.
He said: ‘This is far more palatable to me. It looks like Brexit, it smells like Brexit. That’s Brexit for me.’
Sir Nicholas Soames, one of the 21 Tories expelled last month, said he would back the deal, and predicted most of the group would do the same.
Rotherham MP Kevin Barron last night became the first Labour MP to publicly back the deal.