UK's Johnson faces challenge to get Brexit deal through parliament
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was on Friday preparing to drum up support for the Brexit deal he agreed with the EU ahead of an historic Saturday sitting of parliament.
The government needs 320 votes to get his “new” deal over the line, but faced some tight parliamentary arithmetic, with no guarantee of the agreement being passed by MPs.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), amid claims Johnson had betrayed them by agreeing to a border down the Irish Sea, said their 10 MPs would reject the deal.
Johnson is hoping to garner support from the hard-right faction of his party that wants Brexit at any price, along with leave-supporting Labour MPs and those who are in favour of the current proposal. The opposition Labour Party said it would oppose the deal, but crucially also indicated that it would not punish any rebels.
Failure to win the vote would leave the prime minister with the option of again trying to trigger a general election or being forced to ask the EU for yet another extension beyond the October deadline.
A law passed by MPs last month, the so-called Benn Act, mandates Johnson to ask for more time so a no-deal Brexit could be avoided. He has consistently said he would refuse to ask for more talks, but has also claimed he would abide by the legislation.
However, he may still be forced into an extension after former Conservative MP Oliver Letwin, sacked from the party after supporting the Benn bill, got an amendment through parliament to make sure the deadline was moved until the deal had cleared all stages of parliament.
Letwin argued the government could get its plan through the House of Commons on Saturday and still come away with a no-deal Brexit if it did not become law by October 31.
Despite Johnson's claims of a substantial new deal being agreed with the EU, it is largely the same document agreed by his predecessor Theresa May last year.
However, there were changes to the contentious backstop clause, designed to stop a hard border with Ireland.
Under the new arrangement, Northern Ireland would remain in the UK's customs union, but there would be customs checks on some goods passing through en route to Ireland and the EU single market. This would effectively put a customs border down the Irish Sea, something Johnson said he would never vote for.