Boris Johnson says his Brexit deal is a 'vast step forward' on eve of crucial vote

18 October 2019, 18:11

Boris Johnson is facing a historic Commons vote tomorrow
Boris Johnson is facing a historic Commons vote tomorrow. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Boris Johnson has insisted his Brexit deal is “a vast step forward” on the eve of a historic vote in the Commons.

The Prime Minister said his deal "busts" the UK out of the Northern Ireland backstop agreed by his predecessor Theresa May.

He has urged MPs on all sides of the House to support his last-minute deal on Saturday ahead of the October 31 deadline.

But with no Commons majority and the DUP dismissing his plan, the PM must appeal for support from the Tory rebels he expelled and Labour MPs wanting to avoid a deal-less departure.

Mr Johnson told Robert Peston on ITV News: "It busts out of [the] backstop, the previous problem with the deal, the previous deal that kept us locked in the customs union and the single market so, it's a vast, vast, vast step forward.

"And what it also does, which is good, is it creates a period, a transition period from end of October, end of this month, there's a period of standstill giving certainty to business and at the end of that it is perfectly correct that we will move to the new arrangements."

The vote for the Prime Minister's deal could be sabotaged by an amendment tabled by Sir Oliver Letwin which, if passed, would force the government to set out Brexit legislation - meaning that Boris Johnson would have to request an extension to Article 50.

Hundreds of thousands of protestors are expected to descend on London on Saturday for a People's Vote march in support of a second referendum.

The campaign group promises it will be "one of the largest protest marches Britain has ever seen".

Protesters will gather at Park Lane at 12pm, a major road in central London, and walk towards Parliament Square.

During the interview, Mr Johnson insisted the agreement did not signal a "race to the bottom".

He said: "There's some good language in the level playing field stuff, in the Political Declaration about this country's ambitions on the environment and on social protection you know we're world leaders in this stuff, there are ways in which we want to go further than the EU.

"Under the freedoms that we will win it will be possible for instance for the UK to ban the export of live animals, which has caused offence over many years in this country and we can do all things differently to a higher standard and our aspirations to high levels of protection will be enshrined in the Political Declaration."

Pressed on whether he could rally MPs to back his Brexit deal, Mr Johnson said: "I think there is a is a very clear case for all of us to get this done and that is because, I don't know what you feel, but I sense from my own constituents in Uxbridge, and across the country people want us to deliver now and parliamentarians whether they're Labour, Lib Dems, Plaid, Scottish nationalists we all want to, or DUP we all want to move on."

Asked whether Saturday's vote was the biggest thing he has done professionally, the PM said: "Well I wouldn't deny that, I think it's a very big moment for our country.

"But also its a big moment for our democracy and parliamentarians because I do think we have a choice, which is we have to consider how long we can delay and seem to frustrate what was a pretty clear democratic expression of the will of the people and I think that it would be a great and a fine thing if we could get it done and come together tomorrow."

The Prime Minister’s comments came as French President Emmanuel Macron turned up the pressure on MPs to back Mr Johnson's new Brexit deal by raising doubts that any further delay will be granted.

Just a day before the vote, the French president said that the EU would not grant a further delay to Article 50 unless there are "some major changes".

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