Yesterday was a big day. Today is a big day. Tomorrow will be huge.
For the fourth time since Britain voted to leave the EU, a deal on our departure will be voted on by Parliament tomorrow following an agreement being struck between the Government and the EU. Johnson’s trump card was delivered yesterday afternoon by the mumbley President of the EU Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, who announced that the EU will not accept any further delay to Brexit. In short, so Junker seemed to claim, it’s Johnson’s deal or no deal.
On the surface this is excellent news for the Government. It is no secret that Johnson doesn’t much care how we leave the EU, as long as we’re out on 31 October. Johnson’s supporters will think he has pulled a rabbit from a hat. But the reality of the situation is much more complex and open to interpretation. First of all, Junker’s claim that it’s the deal or the cliff edge was slightly contradicted by Donald Tusk, who refused to rule out an extension. And it is not strictly their decision anyway, it is up to the leaders of each of the EU member states to vote on an extension. So who do you believe? Who is bluffing? Who knows?
There is also a big fat question mark about whether Johnson’s deal will get through Parliament. The last minute no deal threat isn’t going to persuade most within Labour, the Lib Dems, or the SNP to back something they disagree with, and many of them might feel even more anger towards Johnson for what they will view as political blackmail. Meanwhile the DUP maintain that they will vote against the deal, and without them, Johnson will struggle to get the numbers. DUP Leader, Arlene Foster holds a lot of the cards, not for the first time in this Brexit process, and Johnson will really struggle to talk her and her Party around. After all, the deal features a de facto border down the Irish sea, something the DUP have previously deemed a ‘blood red line’. Assuming the DUP are a no then, Johnson is relying on getting enough Labour backbench sympathisers on board, as well as keeping hold of the ERG and the 21 former Conservatives he booted out of the Party. It is not impossible, but it’s a tall order.
Johnson has got a deal with the EU and that alone is more than a lot of people expected. But unless it gets through Parliament, he won’t have got any further than Theresa May did. All eyes on this weekend then, as we watch the future of Britain and Ireland unfold – and not just in the Rugby!