FIVE scenarios that could derail the PM’s deal: JACK DOYLE analyses the problems Boris Johnson faces between now and October 31
- MPs to vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal today, with PM hopeful of a victory
- But Mr Johnson still faces several obstacles to get Brexit passed in nine days
- The obstacles include Jeremy Corbyn, Remainers MPs and the House of Lords
But even if Mr Johnson wins today, there is a long way to go before we can be sure Brexit will happen in nine days.
Here, we examine the obstacles Mr Johnson faces between now and October 31.
Boris Johnson is increasingly confident of a Commons victory for his Brexit deal tomorrow
Today MPs will vote on the second reading of the 110-page Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which was published last night. Jeremy Corbyn will whip his MPs to vote against it, as will the DUP, the Lib Dems and the Scottish Nationalists. But No 10 believes it has won back almost all the hardline Brexiteers who killed off Theresa May’s deal as well as Tory Remain rebels, and has enough votes from Labour leavers and independents to get it over the line. If the vote is lost, the deal is effectively dead and with it any hope of getting out of the EU by the end of the month.
The second of today’s two votes, but potentially the more important, because it will set out the timetable for debates and votes on the Bill. Ministers will try their utmost to drive the Bill through in time for October 31, and want the Commons stages completed by Thursday, by means of two midnight sittings today and tomorrow. But opposition MPs – and some Tory rebels – will demand more time for debate. If they get it, it will be all but impossible to leave in nine days.
The most dangerous of the Labour amendments. Mr Corbyn will try to force the UK to stay in a post-Brexit customs union, which would make free trade deals all but impossible. A similar proposal in April lost by only three votes. Downing Street aides have made it clear they will not swallow a customs union – the issue on which Mr Johnson quit Mrs May’s government – and suggest such an amendment would kill the Bill. With Tory rebels backing away from the idea yesterday, the vote will hinge on the actions of the DUP, SNP and Labour leavers.
However, even if it goes through, the PM will still face several challenges to pass it nine days, with Jeremy Corbyn also likely to push for a second referendum
A lurking threat. Mr Corbyn will attach a second referendum amendment to the Bill, proposing a delay until the country has been put through the trauma of a second vote. If it passes, Mr Johnson will have to abandon the Bill and – in the short term – Brexit. But despite the determined efforts of Remain campaigners, the Commons has never voted for a second referendum, and there seems little prospect of a majority emerging at this stage.
House of Lords
If the deal survives the Commons, this could be the real danger zone. With a large number of Remainer peers, the Lords can be expected to try to throw a spanner in the works with amendments, as well as backing second referendum and customs union amendments if they come from the Commons. The question is whether, when it comes to the crunch, unelected peers would defy a majority in the Commons – and the referendum result – and try to block Brexit.