The smiles say it all! EU leaders AGREE Boris Johnson's Brexit deal after Jean-Claude Juncker said there will be NO extension beyond Oct 31st if MPs reject it - leaving Remainer rebels backed into a corner

  • Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker dramatically announce that the UK and EU have agreed a new deal
  • Brexit divorce agreement was then formally approved by European leaders this evening at summit in Brussels
  • But PM's DUP partners condemned new package saying the customs and consent plans are unacceptable
  • The proposals would see Northern Ireland legally stay in UK but be practically aligned with EU customs union  
  • The DUP have resisted massive pressure from the government to fall into line with the new arrangements 
  • Mr Johnson will ask MPs to vote for deal at 'Super Saturday' sitting in the House of Commons this weekend
  • But without the DUP's support his path to securing a majority among MPs appears extremely difficult

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Boris Johnson was triumphant in Brussels tonight as the EU agreed to his new Brexit deal - and Jean-Claude Juncker backed Remainers into a corner by suggesting that the bloc will not agree to any further delay.

The European commission chief turned up the heat by indicating no extension will be offered by the EU next week - a move that could checkmate pro-EU MPs by neutralising their law designed to block No Deal and force the PM to ask for a delay on Saturday - but hours later Donald Tusk refused to rule out EU leaders listening to a request for for a delay.

It means that if Remainer MPs refuse to back Boris Johnson's deal in a showdown vote on Saturday, they run the risk of Britain not being offered a delay and crashing out of the EU without a deal.

That sets up a day of frenetic deal-making tomorrow, with No 10 fighting to win onside former Tory rebels, the DUP and Labour rebels. 

The dramatic intervention came as Mr Johnson insisted 'now is the moment to get Brexit done' after he signed off the blueprint, which deletes the hated Irish backstop.  

Mr Johnson has taken an extraordinary gamble by agreeing to the deal despite fierce opposition from the DUP - who publicly spelled out a laundry list of objections and accused him of risking the break-up of the UK, vowing to vote against the package. 

Mr Johnson told reporters this evening he was 'very confident' that MPs will want to vote for his deal on Saturday.

He then suggested his view that there should be no further Brexit extension was ‘widely shared’ among other leaders.

The PM said: ‘My view has been very clear for some time. I don’t think delay is to the advantage of the UK or the whole of Europe. That is a view that seems to be quite widely shared.’

However, while the summit significantly avoided pointing to any delay, it also fell short of categorically ruling one out if Mr Johnson loses his Commons vote. European Council president Donald Tusk said any request for a delay would be considered if it is made.

With no chance of an extension, anti-No Deal MPs would face huge pressure to give their support to Mr Johnson's agreement.

Mr Juncker earlier told reporters there will be no 'prolongation'. Asked if he believed Parliament would approve the deal, he said: 'I hope it will, I'm convinced it will. It has to. 

Why does the DUP hate the new Brexit deal?  

Boris Johnson's new deal includes several legal changes from Theresa May's Brexit deal - but the DUP are still refusing to back it.

Many of the changes are more palatable to the DUP than Mrs May's deal, but others are not.

The new deal gives the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont a vote to leave the new customs arrangements after four years - a unilateral exit mechanism rather than the backstop which required the EU to agree to changing the deal.

But the DUP object because the vote requires only a simple majority at Stormont, depriving them of a veto to any changes to customs arrangements.

Arlene Foster's party also object to a number of other aspects of the new deal, but seemed willing to accept them if the consent issues were fixed to give them a veto.

The new deal introduces new customs checks on goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland if their final destination is in Ireland. Goods bound for northern Ireland would be charged EU customs duties as they cross the Irish sea.

Although the unionists accept that Northern Ireland would still technically be in the UK customs territory, they point out that trade with mainland Britain will be 'subject to rules of the EU customs union',

Northern Ireland will also be 'bound in' to EU VAT arrangements, that do not apply to the rest of the UK. Under these rules, VAT from the country of origin is charged at the point of sale. So for a TV set from Germany sold in Northern Ireland, the retailer would collect German VAT

The DUP says there is a 'real danger' of increasing divergence from the mainland against the will of the 'democratic representatives of the people of Northern Ireland'.

 

'Anyway there will be no prolongation. We have concluded a deal and so there is not an argument for further delay - it has to be done now.'

The final decision on whether an extension would be offered ultimately rests with the EU heads of state. 

Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, said this evening that 'if there is a request for an extension I will consult member states to see how to react'. 

But Mr Juncker's comments suggest that the EU does view Saturday's vote as the last chance saloon for an orderly Brexit. 

Should Mr Johnson be defeated in the Commons he will then have to decide what to do next: Try to renegotiate an improved version of the deal or switch to calling for a No Deal Brexit. 

If he does the latter, believing that the EU will not budge any further, then he will likely need to force an early election to deliver it.

Earlier today Mr Johnson hailed the unexpected breakthrough on a deal at a Brussels press conference alongside Mr Juncker with the PM saying there must be 'no more delay' about the UK leaving the bloc. 

'I do think this deal represents a very good deal for the EU and the UK,' Mr Johnson told reporters, saying the UK would leave 'whole and entire'. 

'I think it is a reasonable, fair outcome and reflected the large amount of work undertaken by both sides.'  

Mr Juncker added: 'This is a fair, a balanced agreement. It is testament to our commitment to finding solutions.'  

The new plan includes legal changes to Theresa May's original deal – something Brussels had previously insisted was impossible – with overhauled customs and regulatory arrangements specifically for Northern Ireland rather than the whole UK. 

Downing Street claimed the pact had done away with the Irish border backstop altogether, and would allow the whole UK to exploit the opportunities of leaving the EU, without the mainland being bound to Brussels rules or laws.

The Stormont assembly will theoretically have a vote to end the arrangement, although critics argued that in practice the hurdles for doing so would be difficult to overcome. 

The early signs from Tory 'Spartans' looked positive, with several hardliners who steadfastly opposed Mrs May's package saying they were ready to vote in favour of Mr Johnson's blueprint.  

However, unless the 10 DUP MPs come on board it is far from certain that the deal will be agreed by MPs when Parliament convenes for its first Saturday sitting since the Falklands War. 

In a defiant statement this afternoon, the unionists threatened to join forces with Labour and opposition parties - who have condemned the blueprint as a hard Brexit - to block the plan. 

'These proposals are not, in our view, beneficial to the economic well-being of Northern Ireland and they undermine the integrity of the Union,' the statement said. 

The DUP slammed the 'consent' mechanism, saying it drives a 'coach and horses' through the Good Friday Agreement by only requiring a simple majority of the Stormont Assembly. They wanted the threshold for staying in the arrangements to be a majority of unionist and a majority of republicans.     

British Prime Minister smiles Boris Johnson as he greets Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. MPs face a moment of truth on Brexit after Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU will not offer an extension beyond Halloween if the Commons torpedoes Boris Johnson's new deal.

British Prime Minister smiles Boris Johnson as he greets Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. MPs face a moment of truth on Brexit after Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU will not offer an extension beyond Halloween if the Commons torpedoes Boris Johnson's new deal.

Mr Johnson, pictured with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel to the left of him, insisted 'now is the moment to get Brexit done' after he signed off the blueprint, which deletes the hated Irish backstop

Mr Johnson, pictured with Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel to the left of him, insisted 'now is the moment to get Brexit done' after he signed off the blueprint, which deletes the hated Irish backstop

Mr Johnson seemed in high spirits as he greeted EU leaders including Xavier Bettel (centre) at the summit in Brussels today. The PM and his Luxembourg counterpart had an awkward clash when he visited the country recently and was 'empty podiumed' after refusing to carry out a press conference amid noisy protests

Mr Johnson seemed in high spirits as he greeted EU leaders including Xavier Bettel (centre) at the summit in Brussels today. The PM and his Luxembourg counterpart had an awkward clash when he visited the country recently and was 'empty podiumed' after refusing to carry out a press conference amid noisy protests

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

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

Mr Johnson chatted happily with Angela Merkel (right) and Leo Varadkar (second from right) as they gathered to start the summit at the council HQ

Mr Johnson chatted happily with Angela Merkel (right) and Leo Varadkar (second from right) as they gathered to start the summit at the council HQ

If No Deal at Halloween is the only alternative to Mr Johnson's agreement, it would shift the focus onto a group of approximately 30 'realist' Labour backbenchers who have said they want to deliver Brexit.   

What happens next in the Brexit process?

WHAT HAPPENS TONIGHT? 

European leaders will be presented with the proposed Brexit deal agreed by the EU and the UK and they will then be asked to rubber-stamp it.

Mr Johnson has been lobbying other leaders hard to create a 'cliff edge' to improve his chances of getting the deal approved by MPs. 

That would mean essentially  

will shift to the House of Commons.

WHAT HAPPENS ON SATURDAY?

Parliament is due to sit on Saturday when Mr Johnson will present his deal to MPs and ask MPs to vote for it.

Without the support of the DUP it remains unclear whether he will be able to secure a majority.

If he does win the vote then the UK will be on course for an orderly departure from the EU on October 31.

WHAT HAPPENS IF MPS DON'T BACK THE DEAL ON SATURDAY? 

If he falls short and sees his deal defeated then Mr Johnson will be legally required to write to the EU to ask for a Brexit delay.

However, Jean-Claude Juncker today said there should be 'no prolongation' if MPs reject the deal, raising the prospect of the EU rejecting any extension request if the latest accord is dismissed.

Ultimately a decision on whether to grant an extension rests with the European Council but Mr Juncker's comments suggest that the EU does view Saturday's vote as the last chance saloon for an orderly Brexit.

COULD BRITAIN STILL LEAVE THE EU ON OCTOBER 31

He will then have to decide what to do next: Try to renegotiate an improved version of the deal or switch to calling for a No Deal Brexit.

If he does the latter, believing that the EU will not budge any further, then he will likely need to force an early election to deliver it.

WHEN WILL THERE BE AN ELECTION

Opposition leaders have said that once a No Deal Brexit on Halloween is ruled out they will support an election.

That means there could be a vote on going to the country early at the start of next week with a polling day at the end of November or the beginning of December.

The one thing that could dramatically alter the above is whether Remain-backing MPs are able to force and win a vote on Saturday on holding a second referendum.

The high-stakes manoeuvring started early this morning, when the DUP seemingly got wind that the government was about to try to 'bounce' them into signing up to the package.

The party - which has been in intensive negotiations with Mr Johnson for days - tried to head off the situation by releasing a statement saying it 'could not support' the current blueprint, highlighting serious problems with the customs arrangements, VAT concessions, and consent mechanism.   

But Mr Johnson then essentially threw his former allies under the bus by pushing ahead despite their complaints. 

He tweeted: 'We've got a great new deal that takes back control — now Parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday so we can move on to other priorities like the cost of living, the NHS, violent crime and our environment.' 

Mr Juncker added on Twitter: 'Where there is a will, there is a deal - we have one!

'It's a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions. I recommend that #EUCO endorses this deal.' 

The PM will need to secure the support of 320 MPs when the deal is put to a vote but his path to reaching that number without the DUP appears fraught with difficulty.

Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP have all roundly condemned the package as a 'hard' Brexit and worse than Mrs May's plan.

Arriving at the summit today, Irish PM Leo Varadkar said: 'The backstop has been replaced with a new solution, unique to Northern Ireland recognising its unique geography, and which protects the all island economy and access to the single market, and takes account of democratic wishes of the people in Northern Ireland.' 

The DUP's opposition to the deal raises questions about whether hardline Tory Brexiteers will be able to back it as well given that they have tended to take their cue from the unionists. 

That means the PM could be reliant on the votes of a handful of Labour MPs if he is to have any hope of getting his agreement through Parliament. 

What are the key points of Boris Johnson's new Brexit deal?

Customs: Northern Ireland remains in the United Kingdom's customs territory but all EU procedures will apply to goods arriving there in this complex system. There will be no customs checks on the island of Ireland - they will be done in ports.

For goods crossing from Great Britain to Northern Ireland that are deemed to be staying there, no EU tariff will apply.

No EU tariffs would be paid on personal goods carried by travellers across the Irish frontier and for a second category of exempted goods that can only be for immediate consumption rather than subsequent processing.

An EU-UK body called the Joint Committee will define this second group of goods more precisely after Brexit.

The UK will be allowed to reimburse excise duties for companies in Northern Ireland as long as it does not undercut EU state aid rules.

Northern Ireland will be able to benefit from future UK trade deals around the world. As long as the goods do not cross to Ireland and the EU's single market, only UK customs tariffs will apply.

Consent: The Northern Irish assembly will have to give consent after Brexit for the region's continued alignment with the EU's regulatory rule book.

Four years after Brexit, the assembly will have to decide by simple majority of those taking part in the vote whether stick with it. If the vote is positive, the system is extended for another four years.

If another vote then is positive with cross-community support, the system is extended by another eight years until another vote.

If consent is not granted, there is a two-year cooling off period during which sides need to find a new solution to prevent the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland.

If the regional assembly does not sit or vote, the system continues as the default position.

Unlike the 'backstop' solution in the original deal this system would not be replaced by a new free-trade deal between Britain and the EU. That marks a big concession from the EU side.

Future trade: The two sides are aiming at an ambitious free-trade agreement after Brexit with no tariffs and unlimited quotas. It comes together with a statement that sides will uphold high standards on environment, climate, workers' rights and other rules.

Everything else stays the same: A previously agreed settlement on citizens' rights after Brexit and Britain's divorce bill stay as they were. That also goes for a transition period of 14 months until the end of 2020, which can be extended by one year or two years.

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson is also likely to face an attempt by Remainer rebels on Saturday to try to force a vote on holding a second referendum - something the PM is vehemently against. 

Michael Gove, the minister in charge of No Deal planning, denied that the government had 'thrown the DUP under the bus' in order to get a deal as he said: 'Absolutely not. This is a great deal.' 

Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, suggested that all the bloc could now do is wait to see how MPs choose to proceed as he cautioned that the deal is far from being home and dry. 

Despite the uncertainty over the Commons vote, the agreement struck between the EU and UK represents a major win for Mr Johnson. 

It will boost Brexiteer hopes that the PM will be able to deliver on his 'do or die' pledge to take Britain out of the EU by the October 31 deadline.

It also had a major impact on the value of the pound as sterling surged against the the dollar, rising by one per cent this morning above $1.29, marking a five-month high. 

Mr Barnier delivered an impromptu press conference in Brussels after the deal announcement was made. 

He said that the agreement would resolve the uncertainty created by Brexit as he said the UK and EU 'we have delivered, and we have delivered together'. 

He also confirmed that under the deal done, the UK has agreed to pay in full the Brexit divorce bill, worth an estimated £39 billion. 

Mr Barnier did express a note of concern about what could happen when the deal is put before MPs - especially since the Commons rejected the old divorce agreement. 

He told reporters: 'It is true that we have some experience in this matter and that is why we use the metaphor of mountaineering.'

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, immediately moved to dismiss the deal as he described it as 'worse than Theresa May's'. 

He said in a statement: 'From what we know, it seems the Prime Minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May's, which was overwhelmingly rejected.

'These proposals risk triggering a race to the bottom on rights and protections: putting food safety at risk, cutting environmental standards and workers' rights, and opening up our NHS to a takeover by US private corporations.

'This sell out deal won't bring the country together and should be rejected. The best way to get Brexit sorted is to give the people the final say in a public vote.'

Jo Swinson, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, responded to the news of the agreement being in place by insisting that it must be put to a referendum. 

She said: 'The fight to stop Brexit is far from over. Boris Johnson's deal would be bad for our economy, bad for our public services, and bad for our environment. 

'The next few days will set the direction of our country for generations, and I am more determined than ever to stop Brexit. 

Boris Johnson poses with French President Emmanuel Macron, who appears to give a thumbs up during the crunch EU summit

Boris Johnson poses with French President Emmanuel Macron, who appears to give a thumbs up during the crunch EU summit

Boris Johnson and Mr Macron shaking hands and appearing in good spirits at the crunch EU summit on Thursday

Boris Johnson and Mr Macron shaking hands and appearing in good spirits at the crunch EU summit on Thursday

Boris Johnson (pictured centre) arrives at a summit of European Union leaders, with German chancellor Angela Merkel with her back to camera on the right

Boris Johnson, pictured centre arrives at a summit of European Union leaders, with German chancellor Angela Merkel with her back to camera on the right

A smiling Boris Johnson (pictured centre) speaks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (left) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

A smiling Boris Johnson, pictured centre, speaks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel

The PM next to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel at a very successful summit for Mr Johnson who has secured a new deal

The PM next to Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel at a very successful summit for Mr Johnson who has secured a new deal

A buoyed Mr Johnson speaks with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, pictured centre right, and other European leaders on Thursday

A buoyed Mr Johnson speaks with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, pictured centre right, and other European leaders on Thursday

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, center, is greeted by Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, center left, during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, center, is greeted by Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel, center left, during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels

Pictured left to right: Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel speak prior to an European Union Summit

Pictured left to right: Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orban, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Ireland's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar and Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel speak prior to an European Union Summit

Mr Johnson's reception looks in stark contrast to the one Prime Minister Theresa May faced in December 2016 where she looked isolated

Mr Johnson's reception looks in stark contrast to the one Prime Minister Theresa May faced in December 2016 where she looked isolated

At another EU summit in June, 2017, Mrs May looked downcast as she met with other happy European leaders

At another EU summit in June, 2017, Mrs May looked downcast as she met with other happy European leaders

Mrs May looked deeply unhappy after while speaking to the house after losing the second meaningful vote on March 12 2019

Mrs May looked deeply unhappy after while speaking to the house after losing the second meaningful vote on March 12 2019

Nigel Farage blasts Boris Johnson's new Brexit deal and says he would rather DELAY leaving the EU again 

 Nigel Farage sensationally claimed today that it would be better to delay Brexit than leave under Boris Johnson's new deal.

The Brexit Party leader lashed out at the compromise hammered out by the Prime Minister with Brussels and claimed it would be thrown out by MPs.

They are set to vote on the 11th hour agreement in historic session in the House of Commons on Saturday.

Mr Farage told Sky News today: 'Look I would much rather we had an extension and a chance of a general election than accept this dreadful new EU treaty.'

'When this deal comes to Parliament we will use every possible opportunity to give the public a People's Vote on the Brexit deal that includes the option to remain in the European Union.'

Despite the negativity of the opposition, Downing Street sources were jubilant at the terms struck by the PM.

One senior source said that under the agreement 'Britain is out of all EU laws' and 'we will be able to strike our own free trade deals'. 

They also said that the PM had delivered on his promise to delete the Irish border backstop. 

The source said: 'Northern Ireland will be in the UK customs territory forever. There is now no doubt that Northern Ireland remains part of the UK's customs territory and will benefit from the free trade deals we strike.

Sterling slumps just hours after soaring to five-month high as investors fear DUP will torpedo Brexit deal 

The pound had a tumultuous day against the dollar today after Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed a Brexit deal had been agreed with the European Union.

Sterling rose by 1 per cent this morning towards $1.30 which marked a five-month high for the currency as Mr Johnson headed for a crunch EU summit in Brussels.

But the currency then plunged this afternoon when it soon dawned on investors that there was no guarantee of the UK Parliament backing the agreement.

The volatility comes after the pound gained more than 6 per cent in value against the dollar this week as hopes increased of a Brexit deal by the end of October 31.

Independent economist Julian Jessop told AFP: 'After the initial relief that the UK government and EU have done a deal, markets are worried that it still does not have enough support to get through parliament on Saturday.'

While the pound soared to within a whisker of $1.30 earlier today, by this afternoon it was roughly back to where it started from against the dollar.

 

'The anti-democratic backstop has been abolished. The people of Northern Ireland will be in charge of the laws that they live by, and – unlike the backstop – will have the right to end the special arrangement if they so choose.'

Tory Brexiteers were this afternoon keeping their powder dry before pledging their support. 

Tory former leader Iain Duncan Smith, asked if he would vote for the deal, told the BBC: 'I'm reserving my position on this because I really want to read what is in it.

'Because we were told by the government throughout in discussions that certain concerns were being met within this agreement. And I just want to make sure that is the case.

'For many of my colleagues … there are some issues, for example, if the DUP aren't backing it what are their reasons for not backing it?'

Last night ministers had claimed that a deal was 'fingertip close' after frantic negotiations.

But the DUP had appeared to smash hopes of an accord with their early morning statement. 

DUP leader Arlene Foster, and deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, said in the statement: 'We have been involved in ongoing discussions with the Government.

'As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity on VAT.       

'We will continue to work with the government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.' 

Mr Johnson's decision to effectively disregard the concerns of the DUP in order to strike a deal sets up a monumental vote in the Commons on Saturday. 

The government tabled a motion yesterday to give it the option of Parliament sitting at the weekend. 

Given that the PM has now agreed a deal the government will move forward with the first Saturday sitting since the Falklands War. 

Mr Johnson will put his deal to a vote and challenge MPs to back it but whether or not the PM has the numbers to win is deeply unclear. 

Boris Johnson would not be drawn on whether his deal could secure a majority of support in the House of Commons as he addressed reporters in Brussels

Boris Johnson would not be drawn on whether his deal could secure a majority of support in the House of Commons as he addressed reporters in Brussels

Boris Johnson said this morning that he had secured a 'great new deal' with the European Union

Boris Johnson said this morning that he had secured a 'great new deal' with the European Union

Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed the news as he said that 'where there is a will, there is a deal'

Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed the news as he said that 'where there is a will, there is a deal'

Boris Johnson and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker hailed the breakthrough at a Brussels press conference this afternoon, with the PM saying there must be 'no more delay' about the UK leaving the bloc

Boris Johnson and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker hailed the breakthrough at a Brussels press conference this afternoon, with the PM saying there must be 'no more delay' about the UK leaving the bloc

Jeremy Corbyn, pictured in Brussels this morning as he attended a meeting of the Party of European Socialists, said Labour could not support Mr Johnson's deal

Jeremy Corbyn, pictured in Brussels this morning as he attended a meeting of the Party of European Socialists, said Labour could not support Mr Johnson's deal 

DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds, pictured in Westminster yesterday, had repeated talks with No10 but ultimately felt unable to support the deal

DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds, pictured in Westminster yesterday, had repeated talks with No10 but ultimately felt unable to support the deal

The DUP issued a statement in the early hours of this morning saying they could not support the proposed way forward

The DUP issued a statement in the early hours of this morning saying they could not support the proposed way forward

Assuming the DUP oppose the deal, victory for the PM is likely to come down to how three groups of MPs choose to vote. 

The first are the hardline Tory Brexiteers who rejected Theresa May's divorce deal on three separate occasions.

They have previously linked their voting intention to that of the DUP so the question now is whether they will split from the unionists in order to back the PM.  

Last night the chairman of the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers, Steve Baker, sounded optiomistic about backing a deal but suggested DUP opposition could be an issue. 

He told ITV's Peston: 'If the original (Theresa May) deal was a triple-lock, Boris has dealt with two of the three locks.

'The questions for us were about the remaining items in the Withdrawal Agreement. So on the narrow issue of Northern Ireland, if the DUP are happy, it's not for us to gainsay them.'  

The second are the former Tory rebels who lost the whip after backing a bid to block No Deal. 

Many of those rebels backed Mrs May's deal and Mr Johnson will be hopeful of securing the support of most of them. 

The third are Labour MPs who have previously signalled that they are willing to support a Brexit deal.  

These MPs have concerns about numerous parts of the Brexit deal and will take some persuading in order to support the deal done by Mr Johnson. 

The PM will also be reluctant to place the fate of Brexit in the hands of his political opponents but given his handling of the DUP it now appears that he may not have any other options.   

Should MPs vote for the deal on Saturday it would mean Mr Johnson no longer has to ask the EU for a Brexit delay as he is legally required to do so under the Benn Act if no agreement is in place by October 19. 

That would spare him a major headache and keep his 'do or die' Halloween pledge alive.

Mr Johnson has insisted he will never ask for the date to be pushed back - but Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay made clear yesterday that he will obey the controversial legislation.

The Prime minister's senior adviser Dominic Cummings arriving at Downing Street today

The Prime minister's senior adviser Dominic Cummings arriving at Downing Street today

 

Jeremy Corbyn rejects Boris Johnson's Brexit deal

Jeremy Corbyn blasted Boris Johnson's Brexit deal as 'even worse' than Theresa May's doomed agreement today as he suggested he would fight it to the bitter end.

The Labour leader tore into the proposal hammed out in Brussels this morning to end years of stalemate.

With Mr Johnson looking likely to require pro-deal Labour MPs to rebel to get his deal through the Commons it suggests Saturday's crucial Parliamentary sitting will see a furious confrontation between the two leaders.

This morning Mr Corbyn said: 'From what we know, it seems the Prime Minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May's, which was overwhelmingly rejected.

'These proposals risk triggering a race to the bottom on rights and protections: putting food safety at risk, cutting environmental standards and workers' rights, and opening up our NHS to a takeover by US private corporations.

'This sell out deal won't bring the country together and should be rejected. The best way to get Brexit sorted is to give the people the final say in a public vote.' 

Despite a deal being done, many in the EU believe a short Brexit delay may be needed in order to get a deal over the line. 

Mr Johnson will resist any demands for even the shortest of Brexit delays. 

Last night Mr Barnier told ambassadors that an agreement had basically been reached - with the possibility of a formal sign-off today. 

Mr Johnson had also sounded confident, suggesting at Cabinet yesterday afternoon that he still hoped the DUP could be won over. 

He also told a gathering of Tory MPs last night that the government was on the 'Hillary Step' about to reach the summit of Mount Everest. 

He insisted: 'If it is not possible to achieve a deal we will still leave the EU on October 31.'

And he later even compared his intense negotiations to that of a prisoner in The Shawshank Redemption - in which the hero escapes a jail by wading through a tunnel of waste.

Amid desperate efforts to win over the DUP yesterday there were hotly denied claims that billions of pounds more funding for Northern Ireland was on the table as a sweetener. 

Ms Foster was in No10 for talks yesterday afternoon, but she dismissed afterwards EU claims reported by Irish broadcaster RTE that she had given in on key issues.

She tweeted: 'Discussions continue. Needs to be a sensible deal which unionists and nationalists can support.' 

One Cabinet minister told MailOnline there was 'guarded optimism' over the chances of getting the DUP on board but they insisted the government is preparing to fight to get Brexit done by October 31 if a resolution cannot be found.

'We will be ready if the DUP can't be won over,' they said. 

How Boris Johnson's Brexit gets rid of the original 'anti-democratic' backstop and gives Northern Ireland a vote on leaving new border arrangements

  • Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker announced new deal done this morning
  • PM will now put the agreement to a vote in the House of Commons on Saturday 
  • PM deleted the backstop from the deal and replaced it with complex alternative
  • Arrangements will see Northern Ireland treated differently to the rest of the UK
  • But the Northern Ireland Assembly will be given a vote on whether to accept 

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Boris Johnson today agreed a Brexit deal with the European Union as he kept his hopes of taking the UK out of the bloc on October 31 alive.

The PM arrived in Brussels this afternoon for a crunch summit when European leaders will be asked to rubber-stamp the agreement which no longer contains the Irish border backstop.  

Mr Johnson has struck an accord with the bloc which will see Northern Ireland leave the EU customs union along with the rest of the UK and give the Stormont assembly a say over future border arrangements. 

The deal will be put to a vote in the House of Commons on Saturday during a special sitting. 

That means MPs have less than 48 hours to get their heads around the new divorce terms before they decide whether to back them or not.

Mr Johnson's deal remains similar to Theresa May's original Withdrawal Agreement but the PM will be hopeful that the changes he has secured will be enough to break the Brexit stalemate. 

Here is a run down of the main proposals and an assessment of whether MPs will be able to vote for them.

The original backstop has been deleted

Downing Street was jubilant this morning after the deal was agreed principally because on the face of it the Prime Minister has succeeded in his main aim of getting rid of the original Irish border insurance policy. 

Mr Johnson had repeatedly labelled the protocol 'undemocratic' and the EU had long maintained that it could not be scrapped. 

It was originally included in Mrs May's deal and it would have ensured, come what may in future trade talks, that the Irish border remained free flowing post-Brexit.

It would have been rolled out in the event that the two sides failed to strike an agreement on future trading relations by December 2020.

Effectively the UK as a whole would have stayed in the EU customs union for an undefined period to avoid the need for customs checks on the 310-mile frontier.

This is the legal text changing the mechanism by which the Northern Ireland Stormont Assembly can vote to end the new arrangements

This is the legal text changing the mechanism by which the Northern Ireland Stormont Assembly can vote to end the new arrangements  

Northern Ireland would have had to adhere to EU single market rules on goods, again to rule out the necessity for border regulatory checks.

Crucially for the deal's detractors, there was no time-limit on the arrangements or a mechanism through which the UK could unilaterally exit them.

The bloc's position on the issue softened in recent weeks as European leaders said they were willing to entertain the prospect of replacing the backstop with alternative arrangements. 

Today's deal shows Mr Johnson was able to put forward a proposal the EU deemed good enough to get rid of the protocol. 

But the solution the two sides have arrived at is fiendishly complex and will be politically difficult for some MPs to accept. 

What has the backstop been replaced with? 

The UK and the EU have come up with a four point plan to get rid of the backstop and also ensure that there is never a return to a hard border on the island of Ireland. 

Those four points relate to: Customs, regulations, VAT and the consent of the Northern Ireland Assembly. 

What has been proposed on customs? 

This section of the new legal text shows the changes to the customs arrangement

This section of the new legal text shows the changes to the customs arrangement

Under the proposals Northern Ireland will leave the EU's customs union at the same time as the rest of the UK - a red line for Mr Johnson. 

Crucially that means that the province can benefit from any future trade deals struck by the government after Brexit. 

However, Northern Ireland will remain an entry point into the EU's customs zone which means that UK authorities will apply UK tariffs to products entering Northern Ireland, but only if they are not earmarked for onward transportation across the border.

For goods at risk of entering the single market, the UK will collect EU tariffs on behalf of the bloc. 

Effectively this means creating a customs border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. 

The key line from the deal states the two sides are 'underlining their firm commitment to no customs and regulatory checks or controls and related physical infrastructure at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.' 

It also states unequivocally that 'Northern Ireland is part of the customs territory of the United Kingdom'.  

How will MPs react to this change? 

Deleting the backstop has been a demand of hardline Tory Brexiteer MPs ever since the protocol first emerged. 

However, many of those MPs have previously taken their voting cue on Brexit from the DUP which has already said it cannot support the proposed way forward from the PM. 

The unionist MPs are against any proposal which would see Northern Ireland treated differently to the rest of the UK - erecting a customs border in the Irish Sea undoubtedly falls foul of that principle. 

The question now is whether Tory Eurosceptic MPs join the DUP in saying they will not vote for the plan. If they do Mr Johnson will be in big trouble and his hopes of getting the deal through parliament will shrink. 

What about regulations? 

Much the same as the backstop, Northern Ireland will remain aligned with single market regulations on all goods.

But the checks and procedures on such goods will take place at ports and airports in Northern Ireland and not at the land border.

The UK authorities will therefore assume responsibility for applying the EU rules in Northern Ireland.

What about the thorny issue of consent? 

This is one of the major differences in terms of how the new deal differs to the old one agreed by Mrs May. 

Effectively what has been agreed is that the Northern Ireland Assembly will be given a say on what should happen with the Irish border after Brexit.  

The customs arrangements outlined above will come into effect at the start of 2021 and, after an initial four-year period, Stormont Assembly members will be given a vote on whether to continue to apply them.

Significantly, that vote will be conducted on a simple majority head count and will not require the support of a majority of unionists and a majority of nationalists. 

This means the DUP will not have the chance to exercise a veto.  If the vote is carried, the arrangements will be extended for another four years.

If it transpires that a majority of unionists and a majority of nationalists do ultimately vote in favour of the move, then the extension period will be for eight years.

The document states: 'Where the decision reached in a given period had cross-community support, the subsequent period is the 8-year period following that period.' 

If members vote to come out of the EU arrangements there would be a two-year cooling off period before that happened in order for a new way forward to be hammered out. 

So basically the assembly would vote every four years on whether to stick with the arrangements or try something else.  

How will MPs react to this proposal?

The consent issue emerged as perhaps the biggest sticking points in the talks in recent weeks. 

Under initial proposals put forward by Mr Johnson the DUP would have been given an effective veto on the border arrangements. 

But the compromise in today's deal that the vote in the assembly will only require a simple majority means the DUP would have significantly less influence over the process than it would have wanted. 

Combine disappointment over consent with the anger over the customs plans and the DUP appears incredibly unlikely to change its stance. 

Mr Johnson may be able to win a vote in the Commons without the support of the DUP's 10 MPs. 

But the big question now is how Tory Eurosceptics respond to the DUP's move. 

The VAT issue had only emerged as a potential stumbling block as the talks neared a conclusion.

The VAT issue had only emerged as a potential stumbling block as the talks neared a conclusion.

And what about VAT? 

The VAT issue had only emerged as a potential stumbling block as the talks neared a conclusion.  

What has been agreed would mean that EU rules on value added tax and excise duties will apply in Northern Ireland, with the UK responsible for their collection.

However, revenues derived will be retained by the UK. The UK will also be able to apply VAT exemptions and reduced rates in Northern Ireland that are applied in Ireland. 

Will the UK still have to pay the Brexit divorce bill? 

Yes. The previously agreed settlement on citizens' rights after Brexit and payment of the £39 billion divorce bill stay as they were. 

That also goes for a transition period of 14 months until the end of 2020, which can be extended by one year or two years. 


Can Boris Johnson win a Commons' vote on his Brexit deal and what happens in the next few weeks if MPs FINALLY approve the UK's departure?

  • Announcement sets up a showstopping Commons confrontation on Saturday
  • PM certain to use the weekend session - the first since 1982 - for a vote on deal
  • But vote arithmetic currently against him without DUP or Labour rebels 

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Boris Johnson faces an uphill struggle to get his Brexit deal through the Commons despite managing to hammer a last-gasp agreement with the EU after years of bitter cross-channel wrangling. 

Today's stunning announcement sets up a potentially showstopping Commons confrontation on Saturday. 

The Prime Minister is certain to use the weekend session - the first since 1982 - for a vote on his deal. 

But the Parliamentary arithmetic is currently against him unless he can convince the DUP to reverse its opposition to what he has agreed or entice enough Labour rebels to defy the party whip.

This is how Boris Johnson could win over enough MPs to get his deal through Parliament

This is how Boris Johnson could win over enough MPs to get his deal through Parliament

What happens tonight at the EU summit if a deal is agreed?

The Brussels summit was set to be a humiliation for the Prime Minister. Under the rebel Benn Act passed in September he was legally required to ask for a further Brexit delay past October 31 if he could not agree a deal by this Saturday. 

With a deal in place that Brexit delay of three months is off the table (for now). However EU officials have already suggested that there is already not enough time to get the deal signed and sealed by October 31.

So a short 'technical extension' that provides enough time for this to happen is likely to be on the agenda for the leaders. The question will be how long it is. 

Downing Street remains adamant that there must be no Brexit delay in order to preserve Mr Johnson's 'do or die' pledge. 

However, if the two sides are close to an orderly divorce it is unlikely that the UK would pull the plug. 

Ultimately, Mr Johnson may be able to accept a short delay if that is the price of getting Brexit done in a non-chaotic manner. 

Assuming the leaders of the EU's 27 member states sign off the deal the PM will then have to present it to MPs for them to vote on. 

That vote would likely take place on Saturday with the government having kept open the option of asking MPs to work at the weekend. 

Does this mean the UK leaves the EU on October 31? 

Not necessarily. Jean-Claude Juncker today hinted that the EU would not grant another Brexit delay. 

 After face-to-face talks with the PM he told reporters the deal 'has to' be approved by Parliament.

'Anyway there will be no prolongation,' he added, regarding the October 31 deadline.

'We have concluded a deal and so there is not an argument for further delay - it has to be done now.'

However, whether any requested extension is granted is not down to Mr Juncker - it requires the consent of the 27 remaining members of the European Council.

And his remarks left open what could happen if the deal is voted down on Saturday, with the EU repeatedly saying that it will not be responsible for a No Deal Brexit. 

So what will happen on 'Super Saturday' ?

It's going to be massive. It will potentially pitch the Prime Minister against Labour, the other opposition parties and possibly even the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

The latter are in a confident and supply agreement with the Tories but leader Arlene Foster remains opposed to the deal. 

She announced this morning that they could not support it in its current form mainly because of concerns about the ability of the Northern Ireland Assembly to vote on supporting the complex customs plan in it.

But Mr Johnson send ahead and signed up anyway, in attempt to force the unionist party's hand. However this was tried without success by Theresa May last year.

If the DUP refuse to vote for the deal, a hardcore of the Tory European Research Group of Brexiteer ultras will not back it either, losing the PM more votes from his own side. 

Mr Johnson would then require pro-deal Labour rebels to defy what looks certain to be a three-line whip against the deal ordered by Jeremy Corbyn.

This morning he said the deal was 'even worse' than Theresa May's doomed agreement today as he suggested he would fight it to the bitter end.

In addition Labour would-be rebels, mainly from Leave-supporting seats in the North of England,  have this week suggested they would not rush to back Mr Johnson. 

They have been unnerved by reports this week that the government plans to 'diverge' from EU rules on the environment and workers' rights after Brexit. These measures are key to winning them over.

Boris Johnson needs 319 votes to win a majority.  When MPs voted on Theresa May's Withdrawal Agreement for the third and final time on March 29 it was defeated by 344 votes to 286, a majority of 58.

That means Mr Johnson will need to persuade approximately 30 MPs to switch from opposing a deal to voting for one.

That also assumes that none of the 286 MPs who voted for the original deal have subsequently changed their minds.

So it comes down to a straight fight between yes or no?

No. There are additional plans afoot designed to tie the PM's hands.      

Remain-backing MPs are expected to try to force a vote on Saturday on holding a second referendum. 

The exact terms are not yet clear but it is thought that if there is a deal then they will agree to back it on the grounds that the public are then given a final say on whether to accept it. 

That referendum would then likely pitch the PM's deal against Remain. 

Mr Johnson will resist any attempt to attach a second referendum to his deal and currently it is unclear whether there is a majority in Parliament in favour of a so-called 'People's Vote'. 

Reports today suggested that Jeremy Corbyn could whip his MPs behind the amendment as a safety net in case the main deal passes, although that has been played down by party sources.

If a majority does emerge for a second referendum it will be difficult for the PM to resist given that Remain-backing MPs have repeatedly shown a willingness to seize control of the Brexit process.

Then what happens between now and Halloween if all goes to plan? 

Parliament would then spend the coming week putting in place the legislation needed to actually make Brexit happen on October 31. 

If Mr Johnson has a majority at the first vote on Saturday there is no reason to think that it would evaporate when it comes to voting on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. 

Once Parliament has agreed the deal it will then be up to the European Parliament to do the same. 

Brexit critics have raised the prospect of trying to block the deal but if the European Commission, European Council and British Parliament have all backed it, MEPs will be under immense pressure not to scupper the process. 

Assuming all of those hurdles are cleared in a timely fashion then the UK will leave the EU with a deal on October 31. 

What happens to plans for a general election? 

 The timing of the general election will be determined by what happens on Saturday. 

If Boris Johnson wins the Commons vote it will not take place until after Brexit happens on Halloween because there is no time.

Labour may try to bring in a vote of no confidence in the Government but it is unlikely it will succeed if he can win a Brexit vote.

However, if Mr Johnson loses the vote, he remains tied by the Benn Act to seek a Brexit delay until January. 

If that happens Mr Johnon is certain to ask for an election and Labour would grant it once No Deal is scuppered.

 So next week could see a fresh vote on holding a snap general election. 

Mr Johnson has already tried twice to go to the country early but was thwarted by anti-No Deal MPs.  

If MPs say yes then polling day would be at the end of November or the start of December.

One alternative would be for the opposition to bring forward a vote of no confidence to oust Mr Johnson and then allow Remain MPs to try to form a government of national unity.

But they have so far been so hopelessly divided that there is a risk they would not be able to do that. If no Government was formed after 14 days it would trigger an election.

 

 

It was a knife-edge day of fresh shirts, Shawshank jokes and tortuous talks that see-sawed between hope and despair - but, asks Jack Doyle, did DUP leader Arlene Foster have the last laugh?

Addressing the Cabinet yesterday, Boris Johnson reached for a vivid cinematic reference to describe the state of the Brexit negotiations.

'It's a bit like The Shawshank Redemption. We're in the tunnel,' he said – using the EU's term for the final, intense phase of the talks.

In the 1994 film, a prisoner crawls through a rancid mile-long sewage tunnel before finally tasting freedom.

Later, before the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, he compared the talks to climbing Everest, saying: 'We are not quite at the summit, we are at the Hillary Step. The summit is not far but at the moment it is still shrouded in cloud.'

It was typical Boris - both summarising his predicament and raising a laugh, even when the chips are down.

But however easy he found it to make light of the situation, yesterday was a difficult day for the Prime Minister, and the first time he has tasted the intransigence of the DUP.

Yesterday was a difficult day for the Prime Minister, and the first time he has tasted the intransigence of the DUP (pictured, leader Arlene Foster)

Yesterday was a difficult day for the Prime Minister, and the first time he has tasted the intransigence of the DUP (pictured, leader Arlene Foster)

It was Mr Johnson's (pictured) hopes of doing a deal which were scuppered by the Northern Irish party saying 'No, No, No'

It was Mr Johnson's (pictured) hopes of doing a deal which were scuppered by the Northern Irish party saying 'No, No, No'

Infamously, Theresa May had to pull out of December 2017 talks with Jean-Claude Juncker to take an hour-long call from a furious Arlene Foster, the DUP leader.

May could be forgiven for a wry smile at his predicament. One MP joked that she was probably 'doing cartwheels down the corridor' watching him suffer.

Poll: Most voters want deal

Most Britons who have an opinion on Brexit say they are still in favour of leaving the EU – but only with a deal, a survey has found.

Once 'don't knows' are excluded, more than half of the public (54 per cent) want to see the Brexit referendum result honoured.

But the Comres poll of 26,000 adults – the biggest since the referendum – found most of those who want to leave would oppose a No Deal Brexit. The result of the poll, commissioned by Channel 5 and ITN, is a surprise because most recent surveys have found Remain narrowly ahead. It revealed the public is also against holding a second referendum.

A YouGov poll showed Boris Johnson is the most popular choice for PM (43 per cent) – even among young people and the working classes. Conservative MP Michael Fabricant said: 'The desire to leave is hardening.'

For yesterday, it was her successor whose hopes of doing a deal were scuppered by the Northern Irish party saying 'No, No, No'.

Late on Tuesday night, in the Berlaymont, the European Commission's 13-storey Brussels headquarters, there was still optimism a deal could be done. On the fifth floor, the lights were still on as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier's midnight deadline to agree a deal came and went.

After refuelling on sandwiches and pasta salad late in the evening, the negotiating teams, split between multiple rooms to cover more ground, persevered until 1.30am before calling it quits.

At one point a junior UK official was sent out to buy a bag load of white shirts for diplomats on the UK side who were running out of fresh clothes.

Mr Johnson's chief negotiator David Frost, who leads a team of 25 officials, retired to the British ambassador's opulent residence on Rue Ducale, but was back in the building at 9am, in one of the fresh shirts.

The negotiations resumed, Frost shuttling between the Commission and the UK Embassy, but to the dismay of the UK side – and despite the Commission briefing to the contrary – there was no Eureka! moment.

Late on Tuesday night, in the Berlaymont, the European Commission's 13-storey Brussels headquarters, there was still optimism a deal could be done. On the fifth floor, the lights were still on as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier's (pictured) midnight deadline to agree a deal came and went

Late on Tuesday night, in the Berlaymont, the European Commission's 13-storey Brussels headquarters, there was still optimism a deal could be done. On the fifth floor, the lights were still on as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier's (pictured) midnight deadline to agree a deal came and went

By mid-morning, it was clear why. Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds entered No 10 for talks with the PM by the back door, via the Cabinet office on Whitehall. They weren't saying much, but a few hundred yards away in the House of Commons, the DUP's Sammy Wilson spelled out the party's demands when he erupted at Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay at a committee hearing.

Q&A

Why does the PM need the DUP?

With a Commons majority of minus 45, Boris Johnson needs all the help he can get to push a deal through. The DUP has just ten MPs. But, crucially, Tory members of the pro-Brexit European Research Group have suggested they will not support any deal unless the DUP is happy.

Why is the DUP holding out?

The unionist party insists that any withdrawal from the EU must not affect the integrity of the United Kingdom. That is why it was against Theresa May's backstop, which it said effectively gave Dublin a veto over Ulster leaving the EU. If a general election is around the corner, as expected, the DUP will be keen to be seen to be sticking to its red lines as closely as possible to avoid losing seats to rival parties.

Has it given any ground?

Few details of the talks have leaked out. However, it is understood that the DUP might be prepared to accept Mr Johnson's controversial proposals for a customs border down the Irish Sea. This would mean that while Northern Ireland remains in the UK customs zone in theory, it would also be in the EU customs zone because checks would take place at ports on the Irish Sea.

What is the stumbling block?

THE DUP will only sign up to the deal if it contains a 'consent mechanism' for Northern Ireland. The party wants an injection of democracy into the process with the Stormont Assembly allowed to sign off the new arrangements. Mr Johnson proposed a vote in advance and one every four years, but this has gone down badly in Brussels and Dublin because they fear that it would give unionists a rolling veto.

Is money an issue?

THE DUP has been adept at prising out extra cash for Northern Ireland in return for helping the Conservatives – it got money out of Mrs May to prop up her government after the disastrous 2017 election in which she lost her majority. It is believed the unionist party may be trying to get more cash in return for signing up to the deal.

Could UK ministers make concessions?

LABOUR MP Stella Creasy claimed last night that in an attempt to get an EU deal through, ministers had offered to allow the Northern Ireland Assembly a vote on whether to legalise abortion in the province. That would overturn a vote in Westminster that took place in the summer.

Are there splits in the DUP?

IT appears so. While some more moderate members would consider concessions to allow a deal to be done, others – including Westminster leader Nigel Dodds – are holding out. Another DUP MP, Sammy Wilson, said yesterday that failing to allow a consent mechanism would breach the Good Friday Agreement.

The deal as it stands would mean Northern Ireland staying in parts of the single market and – in effect – accepting a customs border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. This represents a huge compromise for the unionist party.

What they want, Wilson barked, was 'cross-community consent' for the proposal, something he said was required under the Good Friday Agreement. What this means is a vote, or multiple votes, in Stormont, to approve the deal.

The Cabinet meeting was called in the hope Johnson would be able to brief ministers on a deal, but none was available.

While staying upbeat, and delivering his Shawshank Redemption line, he told them: 'There's a chance of securing a good deal but we are not there yet.'

Back in Brussels, the EU had other ideas. The anonymous 'EU sources' who have enraged No 10 for the past three years, were 'at it again', one senior source told me. They briefed friendly journalists that a deal was done. A 'technical agreement' had been reached, and the DUP were onside. This was seen in No 10 as a blatant attempt to bounce Mr Johnson into accepting the agreement as it stood. And only hardened the DUP's resolve.

The source said: 'The EU haven't helped with endless babbling about a deal having been done. That briefing was phenomenally unhelpful. People read that stuff and it makes it harder to get this thing over the line.' Barnier's deadline slipped and slipped. Due to brief member states at 2pm on the deal, that was pushed back to 5pm and then 7pm. At 4.30pm, Johnson did a five-minute turn at the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, with nothing to announce.

But the Shawshank line went down well. 'He's saying he's up to his eyeballs in s*** but not to give up', said one MP. Tory MP Mark Francois, deputy chairman of the European Research Group of Brexiteers, said: 'It was vintage Boris Johnson. It was enthusiastic. It was uplifting. It was positive.'

Some Cabinet ministers are also upbeat about the deal. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox told Cabinet: 'Last time we were in the seventh circle of hell; this time I'm in an airy villa with a lovely view.'

Yet last night in No 10, the mood was downcast. Johnson's proposal for a vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly to approve the deal, and one every four years thereafter, hasn't survived contact with Brussels. It's far from clear what he can extract from the EU that the DUP will accept. And the grim truth is that without their support, he can't get his deal through, and there's little point even turning up to today's EU Council summit.

In the absence of a deal, the looming deadline set by the Benn Act will force him, on Saturday, to ditch his 'come what may, do or die' pledge and delay Brexit. He's riding high in the polls, but after an extension? Will Leave voters blame the MPs who agreed the 'Surrender Act' or will they blame him?

Privately, Mr Johnson's most senior advisers haven't given up hope. Perhaps they're right to, and he will emerge odorous but victorious.

Or perhaps they should be reading another line from Shawshank, delivered by hard-bitten lag Red, played by Morgan Freeman: 'Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.'

 

Super Saturday's on the brink: Boris urges MPs to back the first weekend sitting since Falklands

by John Stevens, deputy political editor 

Boris Johnson last night tabled plans for a 'super Saturday' Parliamentary sitting to get a Brexit deal through the Commons – even as rebel MPs threatened to wreck his hopes.

The Government laid a motion for both Houses of Parliament to sit from 9.30am until 2pm on Saturday, which will be voted on by MPs today.

Should the motion pass, the Commons will sit on Saturday for the first time since the Falklands War in 1982. 

The Prime Minister hopes to use the session for MPs to debate – and pass – any Brexit deal he brings back from this week's crunch Brussels summit.

But yesterday, ringleaders of the 21 MPs who recently had the Conservative whip removed said their support for a deal would be conditional on Mr Johnson first seeking an extension beyond October 31 – or backing a second referendum. 

They are said to be concerned that hardline members of the European Research Group could double-cross the Government by backing a Withdrawal Agreement but then withdrawing their support and voting against the actual legislation needed to implement it.

They also don't believe there is enough time left before October 31 to pass the laws required.

It makes it even more difficult for the Prime Minister to get the numbers he needs to get a deal through the Commons, as Theresa May failed to do three times.

It makes it even more difficult for the Prime Minister to get the numbers he needs to get a deal through the Commons, as Theresa May (pictured) failed to do three times

It makes it even more difficult for the Prime Minister to get the numbers he needs to get a deal through the Commons, as Theresa May (pictured) failed to do three times

Last night, the leader of the Independent Group for Change, former Conservative MP Anna Soubry, hinted at opposition to Saturday's debate. 

She said: 'It is increasingly clear Johnson's 'new' deal is worse than May's. Parliament will get five hours' debate on Saturday without any independent assessments, analysis or select committee scrutiny of the most important set of decisions we will make in generations. That's plain wrong.'

If Britain and the EU cannot finalise the legal text of a deal before Saturday, it is possible MPs could be asked to hold an 'indicative vote' on the outline of the plan – to prove the Prime Minister can command the support of the Commons.

An EU source last night claimed European leaders could even refuse to sign off on a new deal until the Prime Minister shows he can make the arithmetic work among MPs.

Remarkably, it has even been suggested that opposition MPs might vote down the motion for the Saturday sitting. 

The so-called Benn Act passed by MPs trying to prevent No Deal states the Prime Minister must write to Brussels asking for an extension if Parliament does not agree to a deal by Saturday.

One Cabinet minister said MPs could block the Saturday sitting.

The minister said: 'There are a lot of MPs who claim they want a delay because they want to prevent No Deal, but actually they just want to stop Brexit altogether. 

They just do not want to admit that publicly because they fear a backlash from their constituents.

'MPs could stop us having a vote on a deal on Saturday because they fear it will pass, and they know without one the Prime Minister will have to ask for an extension. That is one step towards their goal of blocking Brexit entirely.'

Former Tory Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt said it would be 'pretty blooming amazing' if anyone voted against the motion for the Saturday session.

Yesterday, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay told MPs that Mr Johnson would comply with the Benn Act by writing a letter to Brussels asking for a delay if a deal was not approved by Saturday, following fears the PM could try to scupper an extension with a second contradictory letter or ask a member state to block an extension.

 

Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker say Brexit deal agreed

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