My hat is currently being doffed to within an inch of its life. Somehow, despite it seeming almost certainly impossible just a few days ago, Boris Johnson has managed to negotiate a deal with the EU.
That is a big, big deal, pun semi-intended. And something of a coup for the man who has been, thus far, arguably our worst ever Prime Minister.
I humbly apologise, and am genuinely incredibly impressed.
Anyway, back to normality. He remains, almost certainly, completely and utterly f*cked.
I know. It doesn’t feel that way. It feels like Brexit is right on the cusp of being delivered, at long, long, loooong last. But there are some serious hurdles that Johnson has to overcome if it is to become a reality.
I do note that I said that he stood very little chance of negotiating a deal with the EU and yet he managed it.
Big, big but.
Kim Kardashian levels of but.
In achieving a negotiated deal, he has had to concede on far too many issues. The deal is unacceptable to his opponents in Parliament.
As I wrote in last week’s Weekly Wrap-Up, Johnson’s position last week was this:
- If he wanted to retain the support of his allies in Parliament, he would have to negotiate a deal that the EU had frequently, frankly, and firmly said they would not agree to;
- But if he wanted to negotiate a deal that the EU agreed with, he would have to give away too many concessions and lose the support of the DUP and ERG in Parliament, whose votes he needs for a majority.
This second point is exactly what has happened. Despite the optimism surrounding a new deal, the DUP immediately rejected the deal. The ERG, or at least some of them, may well follow them.
So, when Johnson brings the deal back to Parliament on Saturday, the first time the House of Commons has sat on the weekend since the Falklands crisis, he will probably (maybe) lose.
But it’ll be close. Single-digits, absolute knife-edge close.
Saturday is going to be seismic.
This morning, a BBC News notification popped up on my phone. I genuinely thought it was a mistake when I read it : “Boris Johnson announces a deal has been struck with EU.”
And yet he had managed it.
At a cost.
So, what is this new deal? Simple Politics, a brilliant company that makes politics palatable (hey, wait…), created the infographic below that explains it:
So. What does this all mean?
Well, it means that it’s got all of the issues that came with Theresa May’s deal, but this time it’s Boris Johnson delivering it. Somehow this means that it stands more of a chance of passing, because… charisma? Funny hair? Raw sexual appeal?
I don’t know. But, somehow he stands a real chance of getting enough support to pass it.
It still remains unlikely, however.
So what comes next? Well, first and foremost, an almighty row in Parliament on Saturday. Bear in mind that Saturday will be the only time that our MPs will get a chance to examine and scrutinise the deal, let alone vote on it.
Johnson had, initially, tried to limit the Parliamentary sitting time to just ninety minutes. In the space of time that it takes to play a football match, Johnson expected the House of Commons to decide on legislation that will determine our politics, economics, and arguably society for the next few decades.
Which is typically Johnsonian – all of these negotiations have been left to the last minute in the hope that momentum carries him over the line. The devil, for Bozzle Konks, lies in the detail, and he is desperate to avoid scrutiny wherever possible.
But today, MPs voted to extend the debating time – it will now go on as long as it takes. Which means that it could end up being a very, very late vote indeed.
Odds-on that Boris will crack out a bottle of the old vino tinto at 6pm.
NO VOTE FOR PEOPLE’S VOTE DURING VOTE
Momentum for a second referendum has been building, slowly but surely, over the last few weeks. It was widely believed that an amendment would be tabled to the Brexit bill on Saturday that stipulated it would only be passed if a referendum was guaranteed with it.
Boris’ new deal vs. remain.
Jo Swinson, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, even came out this morning as being in favour of this plan.
But, as the day dragged on, reports came out that the People’s Vote team wouldn’t table an amendment this weekend – instead, they will focus all of their efforts in defeating the Brexit deal. Then, when Johnson has lost, and has to ask the EU for an extension, they will strike – second referendum time, with a hope that it will be sorted once and for all.
It is worth noting that Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, did say that an extension wasn’t necessary earlier today. But whereas some normally reputable journalists excitedly reported that “AN EXTENSION IS RULED OUT”, that isn’t what he said, nor does he have the power to decide.
An extension will be granted by the EU Council, the leaders of the 27 member states, not him. And, if they refuse an extension and we leave with a hugely damaging no-deal, they will take the blame. Unsurprisingly, they will do their absolute utmost to avoid this scenario.
An extension, if requested, will almost certainly be given.
So. It all comes down to Saturday.
Pay-per-view, 9.30am. Johnson vs Corbyn / Swinson / Blackford / basically over half of the House of Commons.
It will be, without a shadow of a doubt, the most intense and important day in contemporary British politics.
By Sunday morning, Brexit will either be sorted, or we will have a good idea as to what comes next.
The end is finally in sight. One, final battle in this horrendous war. It will be the bloodiest yet.
I’ll see you there.