Could Boris Johnson's Brexit deal pass through parliament?

Parties and factions in House of Commons have their own red lines and demands

The prime minister needs the support of 320 MPs to get any deal over the line but there are only 259 Conservative MPs who are almost certain to vote for any agreement he brings back. He will have to find another 61 votes from other factions in parliament, ranging from hardline Eurosceptics to soft Brexit independents.

Tory ‘Spartans’

This group of 28 hardline Brexiters hated Theresa’s May’s deal because of the proposed Northern Irish backstop that they said could have trapped the UK indefinitely in a customs union. They may be satisfied with Johnson’s compromise, which involves a form of Northern Ireland-only backstop, and his promises of an independent trade policy. However, some still have concerns about Northern Ireland remaining aligned with the EU on customs, and it is not clear if they could still support a deal if the DUP is not on board.

Boris Johnson has worked very hard at trying to get them on side, making Iain Duncan Smith his leadership campaign chair and promoting leading Spartans such as Priti Patel and Theresa Villiers to his cabinet. He has held meetings with them throughout the process of getting a deal, keeping them informed. But they would not vote for an agreement until they are sure the legal text matches what he has promised them.

Steve Baker, the chair of the European Research Group, said he was optimistic about supporting a “tolerable” deal but the group as a whole would reserve judgment until it had seen the legal text.

Tory anti-no-deal rebels

This group of expelled Tories – who had the whip withdrawn for trying to block a no-deal Brexit – numbered 21 but Sam Gyimah has since joined the Liberal Democrats. These ex-Conservatives are mixed on whether they would now back a deal. Most of them would probably support Johnson because it would avoid Britain crashing out without no deal. However, there is some concern among former cabinet ministers such as Philip Hammond and David Gauke that the deal is far harder than they would have wanted. Another of those expelled, Margot James, told the BBC she was likely to give a Johnson deal the “benefit of the doubt”, but she felt his current proposal was worse than May’s. Three expelled Tories – Dominic Grieve, Guto Bebb and Justine Greening – are unlikely to support a deal in any circumstances because they want a second referendum.

Democratic Unionist party

The Northern Irish party is the most important piece of the jigsaw, and the assumption is that if its 10 MPs agree to Johnson’s deal, then Eurosceptics will fall in behind them. Ultimately, the DUP wants to be able to tell voters in Northern Ireland that it remains part of the UK and will not be cut adrift by Westminster. The significant sticking points are over how any customs arrangements in Northern Ireland would differ from those in the rest of the UK and how in future the party might give its consent to alignment with EU regulation. Johnson has consulted the DUP every step of the way – unlike May – but the party is still holding out against approving a deal at the moment.

Labour MPs for a deal

While the party leadership would not back a Johnson deal, it is a different story for some of the party’s backbenchers in leave-voting seats. About 19 Labour MPs are potentially up for voting for a deal if there are stronger protections on workers’ rights, the environment and the future relationship. They might be minded to back a deal from Johnson as it would remove the threat of no deal, deliver an orderly Brexit and avoid further delay. But on the other hand they will come under intense pressure from within their party not to support a Tory-led deal, especially a hard Brexit one presented by Johnson. There has been some outreach from a Tory cabinet minister to Labour MPs but no detailed negotiations, and many are baffled as to why No 10 has not tried harder to get them onside.


Kate Proctor and Rowena Mason

The GuardianTramp

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