Boris Johnson says he is 'very confident' MPs will back his Brexit deal

17 October 2019, 10:49

Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels today
Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker in Brussels today. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Boris Johnson is 'very confident' MPs will back his new Brexit deal.

The Prime Minister urged parliamentarians to "come together and get this thing done" after EU leaders approved the departure agreement hammered out shortly before the key summit began on Thursday.

He now faces the hurdle of getting it through parliament or leading the country towards a possible No Deal departure.

He faces an uphill battle to get the deal backed during a sitting of Parliament on Saturday, after his key and influential allies in the DUP rejected it.

"I am very confident that when my colleagues in Parliament study this agreement that they will want to vote for it on Saturday and in succeeding days," he said.

Jean-Claude Juncker made a plea for MPs to back the renewed deal, and Mr Johnson called on Parliament to “come together and get Brexit done.”

The DUP has ruled out backing the deal.

After face-to-face talks with the PM, Mr Juncker said there will be no further extension.

“There will be no prolongation," he added, on the October 31 deadline.

"We have concluded a deal and so there is not an argument for further delay - it has to be done now."

Mr Johnson appeared to be directly appealing to Arlene Foster's party at an earlier press conference alongside Mr Juncker, saying the deal allowed the UK to leave the bloc "whole and entire".

He said the "fair" and "reasonable" agreement would protect the Irish peace process and allow the whole of the UK to take part in new free trade deals.

"I hope very much now, speaking of elected representatives, that my fellow MPs in Westminster do now come together to get Brexit done, to get this excellent deal over the line and deliver Brexit without any more delay," he added.

The DUP, which has been in close and regular talks with the PM, had criticised his effort for undermining the integrity of the union and being bad for Northern Ireland's economy.

The deal also "drives a coach and horses" through the Good Friday peace agreement over the issue of consent, a strongly-worded statement from the party said.

Earlier Mr Johnson tweeted: "We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control — now Parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday so we can move on to other priorities like the cost of living, the NHS, violent crime and our environment."

Eu Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker the new agreement is a "fair and balanced" one for both sides and recommended the EU Council endorses it so it can be put to MPs in Parliament.

He tweeted: "Where there is a will, there is a #deal - we have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions.

"I recommend that #EUCO endorses this deal."

Speaking after the announcement, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said "the EU and UK were fully committed to protect peace and stability on the island of Ireland."

He said that deal ensures that Northern Ireland remains in the customs union, and will mean the UK can engage in free trade with the bloc.

Mr Barnier said the solution "rests on four main elements".

Under the details of the deal, Northern Ireland will remain aligned to a limited set of EU rules, notably related to goods and will remain in the UK's customs territory but will "remain an entry point" into the EU's single market.

An agreement to maintain the integrity of the single market and satisfy the UK's legitimate wishes over VAT has been include.

Representatives at Stormont will be given the opportunity to vote on the terms of the rules every four years.

Although a deal has been reached, it still needs to be voted on by the UK Parliament.

Mr Johnson's spokesperson has said MPs will vote on the deal on Saturday - making it the first weekend session for 37 years.

The DUP - Mr Johnson's key allies in the Commons - have confirmed they will not be supporting the deal.

In a statement, the DUP said: "Following confirmation from the Prime Minister that he believes he has secured a 'great new deal' with the European Union the Democratic Unionist Party will be unable to support these proposals in Parliament.

"The Democratic Unionist Party has worked since the referendum result to secure a negotiated deal as we leave the European Union.

"We have been consistent that we will only ever consider supporting arrangements that are in Northern Ireland's long-term economic and constitutional interests and protect the integrity of the Union."

Their announcement has further fuelled speculation the deal will not be able to scrape the number of votes needed to pass.

Mr Johnson needs a minimum of 320 MPs to vote in his favour to ensure the deal passes through the Commons.

But after sacking 21 Tory rebels from the party and dealing with a wave of defections, Mr Johnson now has a deficit of 45 representatives.

Even if every available Tory MP votes in his favour it would only mean he has secured 285 votes - and the most Theresa May ever achieved was 279.

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier speaking after the deal was announced
The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier speaking after the deal was announced. Picture: PA

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has also slammed the deal, calling it "even worse" than Theresa May's which was rejected three times by Parliament.

He said: "From what we know, it seems the Prime Minister has negotiated an even worse deal that Theresa May's, which was overwhelmingly rejected.

"These proposals risk triggering a race to he bottom on rights and protections: putting food safety at risk, cutting environmental standards and workers' rights, and opening up our NHS to a takeover by US private companies.

"This sell out deal won't bring the country together and should be rejected. The best way to get Brexit sorted is to give people the final say in a public vote."

But Mr Barnier has admitted there is "some margin" for further detail to be added to the agreement.

He added: "The Northern Ireland Committee will have further mandate but I think today's agreement is balanced and the best possible one.

"It has major changes to the issue of Northern Ireland and Ireland and we have replaced it with a new approach."

Mr Johnson seen leaving Downing Street via the back door on his way to Brussels this morning
Mr Johnson seen leaving Downing Street via the back door on his way to Brussels this morning. Picture: PA

Despite the immediate criticism, Mr Johnson insisted his latest version ensures the UK can "Take back control" of laws, money, borders and trade.

He added: "This new deal takes back control. Under the previous negotiation, Brussels maintained ultimate control and could have forced Britain to accept EU laws and taxes for ever.

"We will leave the EU's Customs Union as one United Kingdom and be able to strike trade deals all around the world."

Mr Johnson added that the "anti-democratic" backstop had been abolished.

He tweeted: "The people of Northern Ireland will be in charge of the laws that they live by, and - unlike the backstop - will have the right to end the special arrangement if they so choose."