So this is it. We have arrived at the moment when Parliament can finally end this Brexit purgatory.
Alternatively, they could continue to put petty politics before the national interest, condemning us to exist indefinitely in the agonising half-in, half-out limbo of the past three years.
Boris Johnson, through sheer force of will and personality, has played his part in this drama stunningly well, achieving the seemingly impossible.
From a standing start less than three months ago, he has banished ‘the doomsters and the gloomsters’ and pulled off a new Brexit deal — and before the Halloween deadline to boot.
Unalloyed joy (and relief) surged through the normally dour Brussels Eurocracy at the news on Thursday.
Boris Johnson, through sheer force of will and personality, has played his part in this drama stunningly well, achieving the seemingly impossible
Unalloyed joy (and relief) surged through the normally dour Brussels Eurocracy at the news on Thursday
Jean-Claude Juncker speaks during media conference at the EU headquarters during the EU summit in Brussels on Thursday
Mr Johnson, until recently their bete-noire, was hugged and backslapped so hard and so often by Messrs Tusk, Juncker et al, that one feared he might suffer a crushed disc.
And no wonder. This is a deal which maintains our close friendship with Europe, but honours the referendum by allowing us to take back control of our own laws, money, borders and trade.
The relief in Brussels will be as nothing to that of the British public if we can finally get Brexit done and all move on with our lives.
This paper consistently supported the May deal, and we support this one. It contains some compromises, but we believe they are worth making if we can begin healing the divisions that have beset this country far too long.
Tomorrow, in its first Saturday sitting for 37 years, the Commons will vote on the Johnson agreement.
This has been the most fractious, spiteful and hopelessly indecisive Parliament in living memory.
Michel Barnier, Leo Varadkar, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker give statements to the media on Thursday
If, out of hubris and spite, they now end it by snatching disaster from the jaws of victory, the voters will never forgive them.
But there is still hope that MPs will have an attack of conscience and redeem themselves at this 11th hour.
Let’s not forget that even to get this far is a towering achievement — and contrary to almost every prediction.
The doubters said the EU would never re-open the Withdrawal Agreement. It has.
They said there could be no alternative to the backstop. There is.
They said a new deal couldn’t be done in the time available. It was.
They said these negotiations were a sham; that, secretly, Boris wanted a No Deal outcome. They weren’t and he doesn’t.
In fact, keeping No Deal on the table and the insistence that we would leave by the October 31 deadline, ‘do or die’, have been absolutely crucial in concentrating minds in Brussels.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker underlined this change of heart emphatically on Thursday when he said there could be no further extension beyond the deadline — a crushing blow to the Remain alliance
The EU was previously happy to kick Brexit into the long grass, hoping it might go away.
Mr Johnson, who grows in stature by the day, managed to persuade them that further delay could easily lead to No Deal.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker underlined this change of heart emphatically on Thursday when he said there could be no further extension beyond the deadline — a crushing blow to the Remain alliance.
‘There will be no prolongation,’ he said. ‘We have concluded a deal. There is not an argument for delay. It has to be done now.’
We could hardly have put it better ourselves.
So what exactly is new about this deal? First, there is a new ‘protocol’ to obviate the need for the Irish backstop.
Northern Ireland would remain in the UK customs territory but stay closely aligned to the European single market. Significantly, it would also benefit from any new trade deals we strike, giving it the best of both worlds.
There would be no border checks on the island of Ireland, but goods travelling from Great Britain to Northern Ireland would be subject to customs inspection.
If those goods were to be sold on to an EU country, the UK would collect tariffs on the bloc’s behalf.
This is, of course, a delicate change, as some argue it places a customs barrier down the Irish Sea.
The Democratic Unionist Party — whose raison d’etre is to ensure that Northern Ireland remains an inalienable part of the United Kingdom — is highly suspicious and currently says it can’t support the terms.
A second element of the protocol has also raised their hackles. At the end of the transition period, and every four years after that, the Stormont Assembly (assuming it’s ever reconvened) will vote on whether these arrangements should continue.
But the vote will be on a simple majority basis, rather than both traditional communities having a veto, as is their right under the Good Friday Agreement.
The Mail certainly doesn’t underestimate the sensitivities, but we would appeal to the DUP not to view this deal as a conspiracy to cut Northern Ireland loose.
Some form of customs arrangement would be necessary, deal or no deal. This is easily the least disruptive way.
And just look at the huge benefits of the wider agreement for the whole of the United Kingdom.
European Court supremacy would end. We would be able to change our laws in all sorts of areas, from fishing and farming rules to product standards.
We’d have an unqualified right to make our own trade deals with the wider world, be responsible for of our own immigration policy and regain control of VAT rules and other tax laws currently ceded to Brussels.
As a concession to Labour concerns, we agree in the political declaration to a ‘level playing field’ with the EU on employment rights and environmental standards.
So will Jeremy Corbyn and his Marxist acolytes back this eminently sensible deal? Some hope. Before even reading it, Mr Corbyn dismissed it as ‘a sell-out’, and now appears to be committing his party to a second referendum
So will Jeremy Corbyn and his Marxist acolytes back this eminently sensible deal? Some hope.
Before even reading it, Mr Corbyn dismissed it as ‘a sell-out’, and now appears to be committing his party to a second referendum.
We say ‘appears to’, as one never knows from hour to hour what his Brexit policy is — beyond cynically opposing every Tory move.
In any case, a referendum would take at least seven months to stage and would solve nothing. It is simply a recipe for more corrosive delay.
But there is yet hope that Mr Johnson can cobble together a majority for his agreement.
The Liberal Democrats and the SNP are lost causes, of course, too wrapped up in their own sense of grievance and self-importance to listen to reason.
However, some Labour backbenchers from Leave-voting constituencies have expressed regret at not backing Theresa May’s deal when they had the chance.
Out of a desire to reflect the wishes of their constituents — and fearing a massive backlash at the next election — it’s thought around 20 could be persuaded to support this one.
Then there are the 21 Tory rebels expelled last month for voting against the Government. Yes, they may still be wounded by their harsh treatment, but the overwhelming majority voted for the May deal. Logically and morally, they should now back this one.
At the other end of the Tory spectrum sit the ‘Spartans’ of the European Research Group, who ultimately finished Theresa May. Many, including their standard-bearer Jacob Rees-Mogg, have said they will support their new leader, believing his proposal represents the best prospect of ever leaving the EU. We sincerely hope the rest will recognise this obvious fact.
So there we have it. With or without DUP support (preferably with), there is a golden opportunity to push this deal over the line and get Britain moving again. It’s a chance MPs must not flunk.
The surge in sterling and the markets yesterday on the mere hope that it can be finalised shows what vast investment and economic potential a Brexit agreement could unleash.
In the immortal words of Mr Johnson’s hero Winston Churchill, this would not mark the end, or even the beginning of the end of the Brexit process. But it would mark the end of the beginning. And for that, the long-suffering public would be eternally grateful.
Of all MPs, the Mail asks this: Take a step back from the fray. For the sake of our beleaguered democracy and this country’s future, put your enmities aside.
Focus on the prize. Do the right thing. Back this deal.