Boris Johnson and Jean-Claude Juncker confirm the UK and EU HAVE agreed Brexit deal

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The UK and the EU have agreed to a new Brexit deal as Boris Johnson said he will ask MPs to vote for it on Saturday despite continued DUP opposition.  

Mr Johnson and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker both announced the bombshell breakthrough this morning. 

However, the DUP has rejected the proposed agreement which means it is far from certain that it will be agreed by a majority of MPs when Parliament sits at the weekend. 

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.’ 

Mr Juncker added: ‘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.’ 

The DUP issued a statement early this morning in which the party branded the package put forward by the PM unacceptable. 

The party said it ‘cannot support’ the concessions made on customs and consent of the Northern Irish people.

Dealing another hammer blow to the fledgling blueprint, they also condemned a ‘lack of clarity’ on whether EU VAT rates will apply in the province.

The DUP statement was issued before Mr Johnson announced that a deal had been done with the EU. 

But the party then reportedly refused to budge in the wake of the news as sources told Sky News: ‘Read our statement. It has not changed.’ 

Mr Johnson’s decision to push ahead with the deal despite not having the support of the DUP sets up a tense showdown vote in the House of Commons on ‘Super Saturday’. 

The PM will need to secure the support of 320 MPs when the deal is put to a vote but his path to reaching that number without the DUP appears fraught with difficulty.

The DUP’s opposition to the deal raises questions about whether hardline Tory Brexiteers will be able to back it as well given that they have tended to take their cue from the unionists.

That means the PM could be reliant on the votes of a handful of Labour MPs if he is to have any hope of getting his agreement through Parliament. 

Despite the uncertainty over the Commons vote, the agreement struck between the EU and UK represents a major win for Mr Johnson. 

It will boost Brexiteer hopes that the PM will be able to deliver on his ‘do or die’ pledge to take Britain out of the EU by the October 31 deadline.

Boris Johnson said this morning that he had secured a 'great new deal' with the European Union

Boris Johnson said this morning that he had secured a 'great new deal' with the European Union

Boris Johnson said this morning that he had secured a ‘great new deal’ with the European Union

Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed the news as he said that 'where there is a will, there is a deal'

Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed the news as he said that 'where there is a will, there is a deal'

Meanwhile, Jean-Claude Juncker confirmed the news as he said that ‘where there is a will, there is a deal’

Mr Johnson, pictured leaving Downing Street this morning, will now travel to Brussels for an EU summit

Mr Johnson, pictured leaving Downing Street this morning, will now travel to Brussels for an EU summit

Mr Johnson, pictured leaving Downing Street this morning, will now travel to Brussels for an EU summit

The PM left Downing Street just before 11am. European leaders are now expected to sign off the proposed deal at a summit today and tomorrow

The PM left Downing Street just before 11am. European leaders are now expected to sign off the proposed deal at a summit today and tomorrow

The PM left Downing Street just before 11am. European leaders are now expected to sign off the proposed deal at a summit today and tomorrow

Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, immediately moved to dismiss the deal as he described it as ‘worse than Theresa May’s’. 

He said in a statement: ‘From what we know, it seems the Prime Minister has negotiated an even worse deal than Theresa May’s, which was overwhelmingly rejected.

‘These proposals risk triggering a race to the 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 corporations.

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

Pound soars to five month high after Brexit deal agreed

The pound surged against the dollar today after Prime Minister Boris Johnson revealed a Brexit deal had been agreed with the European Union.

Sterling rose 1 per cent this morning above $1.29 which marked a five-month high for the currency as Mr Johnson headed for a crunch EU summit in Brussels.

The pound has gained more than 6 per cent in value against the dollar this week as hopes increased of a Brexit deal by the end of October 31. 

The pound was also up 0.5 per cent against the euro with a pound worth €1.1129. 

Analysts have revised up expectations of Brexit happening at the end of this month while traders have cut back their short positions on the British currency. 

Artur Baluszynski, head of research at Henderson Rowe, said: ‘Big win for Boris. If he manages to get it through parliament, we should see a wave of ‘risk-on’ trades coming into UK market. 

‘However, let us wait and see all the details and then let the markets decide how likely it is for the UK parliament to accept it. For now, expect some positive momentum in sterling and domestically focused asset classes.’

Jo Swinson, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, responded to the news of the agreement being in place by insisting that it must be put to a referendum. 

She said: ‘The fight to stop Brexit is far from over. Boris Johnson’s deal would be bad for our economy, bad for our public services, and bad for our environment. 

‘The next few days will set the direction of our country for generations, and I am more determined than ever to stop Brexit. 

‘When this deal comes to Parliament we will use every possible opportunity to give the public a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal that includes the option to remain in the European Union.’

Despite the negativity of the opposition, Downing Street sources were jubilant at the terms struck by the PM.

One senior source said that under the agreement ‘Britain is out of all EU laws’ and ‘we will be able to strike our own free trade deals’. 

They also said that the PM had delivered on his promise to delete the Irish border backstop. 

The source said: ‘Northern Ireland will be in the UK customs territory forever. There is now no doubt that Northern Ireland remains part of the UK’s customs territory and will benefit from the free trade deals we strike.

‘The anti-democratic backstop has been abolished. 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.’

Last night ministers had claimed that a deal was ‘fingertip close’ after frantic negotiations.

But the DUP appeared to smash hopes of an accord with an early morning statement ahead of more expected talks with Downing Street before the European Council summit starts this afternoon.

With the prospect of an agreement in Brussels now on life support, Mr Johnson now faces the humiliating prospect of waiting while EU leaders discuss how long an extension they will offer to his ‘do or die’ Halloween Brexit date.

A Remainer rebel law means that the PM is obliged to beg for a delay until at least January if he has not agreed a settlement by Saturday.

Mr Johnson has insisted he will never ask for the date to be pushed back – but Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay made clear yesterday that he will obey the controversial legislation.

DUP leaders Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds are pictured in Westminster yesterday

DUP leaders Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds are pictured in Westminster yesterday

DUP leaders Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds are pictured in Westminster yesterday 

The party issued a statement in the early hours of this morning saying they could not support the current Brexit deal proposed by Boris Johnson

The party issued a statement in the early hours of this morning saying they could not support the current Brexit deal proposed by Boris Johnson

The party issued a statement in the early hours of this morning saying they could not support the current Brexit deal proposed by Boris Johnson 

Pro-EU MPs are also plotting to force a second referendum at an extraordinary ‘Super Saturday’ Commons sitting this weekend, as the premier’s strategy threatens to descend into chaos.

The statement from DUP leader, Arlene Foster, and deputy leader, Nigel Dodds, said: ‘We have been involved in ongoing discussions with the Government.

‘As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity on VAT.       

‘We will continue to work with the government to try and get a sensible deal that works for Northern Ireland and protects the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom.’ 

The EU put further pressure on the PM this morning with a senior official saying there would be no more negotiation on a deal once the summit starts this afternoon.

The pound fell 0.5 per cent against the dollar and the euro within minutes of the DUP’s announcement before later recovering.

Mr Johnson spoke with Jean-Claude Juncker this morning ‘as part of the ongoing discussions on securing a Brexit deal’, Downing Street said.

The DUP’s support is key to Mr Johnson’s hopes of getting a Brexit deal through the Commons.

If the 10 unionist MPs were back the accord they would likely bring with them a group of approximately 30 hardline Tories from the European Research Group (ERG), the so-called ‘Spartans’, who largely take their lead from Ms Foster’s position.

Last night its chairman Steve Baker told ITV’s Peston: ‘If the original (Theresa May) deal was a triple-lock, Boris has dealt with two of the three locks.

‘The questions for us were about the remaining items in the Withdrawal Agreement. So on the narrow issue of Northern Ireland, if the DUP are happy, it’s not for us to gainsay them.’  

The DUP’s opposition to the deal would therefore leave Mr Johnson requiring a significant number of Labour MPs to back his agreement in order to have any chance of getting it through the Commons.

The likelihood of that happening appears to be slim. Numerous Labour MPs have said before that they would be willing to back a Brexit deal. 

However, they have never actually pulled the trigger en masse and voted with the government. 

Mr Johnson will be incredibly reluctant to base his hopes of getting an agreement through Parliament on the support of his political opponents. 

Many of the Labour MPs who could back a deal have significant concerns about the shape of the PM’s deal and will want cast iron assurances in areas like workers’ rights and environmental protections before they even consider voting with Mr Johnson. 

Housing Minister Robert Jenrick insisted this morning that a deal with Brussels was still ‘within sight’.

Germany's Angela Merkel said on Thursday solutions still need to be found for customs arrangements in Northern Ireland to clinch a Brexit deal

Germany's Angela Merkel said on Thursday solutions still need to be found for customs arrangements in Northern Ireland to clinch a Brexit deal

Germany’s Angela Merkel said on Thursday solutions still need to be found for customs arrangements in Northern Ireland to clinch a Brexit deal

The Prime minister's senior adviser Dominic Cummings arriving at Downing Street today

The Prime minister's senior adviser Dominic Cummings arriving at Downing Street today

The Prime minister’s senior adviser Dominic Cummings arriving at Downing Street today

‘It’s a sensitive moment but we remain cautiously optimistic that because the parties want a deal there is a way through this,’ he told BBC Breakfast. 

German chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday solutions still needed to be found for customs arrangements in Northern Ireland to clinch a Brexit deal.

She told the Bundestag that European Union leaders could yet meet again if they do not reach an agreement at this week’s summit. 

Leo Varadkar, the Irish Taoiseach, has suggested yesterday that an emergency EU summit immediately before the October 31 deadline could yet be required. 

Ms Merkel said the British government had shown ‘a readiness to negotiate with very concrete proposals’, adding: ‘There has been movement in recent days, significant movement … so we are on a better path than before but, today I must say very clearly, we have not reached the goal yet.’  

Last night Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, told ambassadors that an agreement had basically been reached – with the possibility of a formal sign-off today.

It was then up to Mr Johnson to convince the DUP of the merits of his plans, before potentially putting it all to a vote in the Commons on Saturday following the sign off of EU leaders today and tomorrow.

Mr Johnson remained confident, suggesting at Cabinet yesterday afternoon that he still hoped the DUP could be won over. 

He also told a gathering of Tory MPs last night that the government was on the ‘Hillary Step’ about to reach the summit of Mount Everest. 

He insisted: ‘If it is not possible to achieve a deal we will still leave the EU on October 31.’

Boris Johnson departs the back of Downing Street to attend a 1922 backbench committee meeting in Parliament yesterday. He has teed up a massive 'Super Saturday' showdown with MPs as his hopes of a Brexit deal look to be crumbling amid DUP opposition

Boris Johnson departs the back of Downing Street to attend a 1922 backbench committee meeting in Parliament yesterday. He has teed up a massive 'Super Saturday' showdown with MPs as his hopes of a Brexit deal look to be crumbling amid DUP opposition

Boris Johnson departs the back of Downing Street to attend a 1922 backbench committee meeting in Parliament yesterday. He has teed up a massive ‘Super Saturday’ showdown with MPs as his hopes of a Brexit deal look to be crumbling amid DUP opposition

And he later even compared his intense negotiations to that of a prisoner in The Shawshank Redemption – in which the hero escapes a jail by wading through a tunnel of waste.  

The government has tabled a motion for the Commons to sit on Saturday – the first Saturday sitting since the Falklands War. 

If there is a deal at the summit today MPs will be asked to approve it on Saturday, but if not Mr Johnson is expected to stage a vote on whether to delay Brexit or go for No Deal. 

Remainers are also preparing a bid to force a second referendum, as the struggle for the country’s future intensifies. 

Amid desperate efforts to win over the DUP yesterday there were hotly denied claims that billions of pounds more funding for Northern Ireland was on the table as a sweetener. 

Ms Foster was in No10 for talks yesterday afternoon, but she dismissed afterwards EU claims reported by Irish broadcaster RTE that she had given in on key issues.

She tweeted: ‘Discussions continue. Needs to be a sensible deal which unionists and nationalists can support.’ 

One Cabinet minister told MailOnline there was ‘guarded optimism’ over the chances of getting the DUP on board but they insisted the government is preparing to fight to get Brexit done by October 31 if a resolution cannot be found.

‘We will be ready if the DUP can’t be won over,’ they said. 

Mr Baker said last night that ‘great progress’ has been made in talks with Number 10 as many Tory MPs sounded optimistic a deal could get over the line. 

He said: ‘We know there will be compromises, but we will be looking at this deal in minute detail, with a view to supporting it.

‘But until we get that text, we can’t say.’   

He added however, that the ERG ‘can’t support deal without seeing text’.

‘We really must see the text in time to read it in order to vote on Saturday,’ he said.

‘Time is becoming very short for everyone now. As Michel Barnier famously said, ‘the clock is ticking’.

‘We need to get through this (European) Council, have the text of the deal, have the implementing legislation ready, and we need to be voting on that on Saturday.’

What are the sticking points in the Brexit talks? 

Last week Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar came up with the principles of a new blueprint that brought Brexit talks back from the dead.

However, while both sides are now entertaining the idea that a deal could be possible, significant sticking points remain. 

Northern Irish Consent: The DUP’s main concern is the proposed method for Northern Ireland to ‘consent’ to the complex customs plans cobbled together in Brussels.

The UK and EU have agreed in principle that the Northern Ireland Assembly should be offered the chance to opt out of staying in Brussels’ customs orbit.

They want a vote every four years with a simple majority to win. But with the potential for more nationalist than unionists in the NIA the DUP fear they can be simply out-gunned.

Ms Foster’s party is believed to prefer any vote to be subject to the ‘cross-community support’ provision of the Good Friday Agreement.

This arrangement from 1998 means that contentious issues have to be approved by a majority of both unionists and nationalist politicians and gives them a powerful say. Only a third of MLA’s have to agree that an issue is contentious for the provision to come into effect.

The EU is believed to have said that if it agrees to this mechanism, and the unionists lose an opt-out vote, they could not hold another for eight years.

With an additional two-year ‘cooling off’ period suggested by the EU, it would potentially keep the province tied to the EU for a decade.

Additionally, if the power-sharing Stormont assembly is not functioning the default position would be to remain in the customs system.

It has not sat since January 2017 after a row between the DUP and Sinn Fein. And if it was up and running the loyalists fear that the nationalist party could avoid a vote by withdrawing, collapsing the system again.

Customs checks: Mr Johnson’s proposed way forward is thought to involve Northern Ireland leaving the EU’s customs union along with the rest of the UK. 

However, the bloc’s tariffs would be collected on goods heading to the province from mainland Britain in a so-called ‘customs partnership’ so that they are all EU compliant when they arrive on the island of Ireland.

If those goods then stayed in Northern Ireland – and within the UK – then the business receiving them would be eligible for a rebate on the EU tariff charged.

The EU is concerned about the complexity of the plan, the potential for smuggling, and whether technology exists to implement it.

Problems have also emerged over VAT, thought to be technical issues over how and when it is collected. 

The DUP is also eager to ensure that there is no legal border in the Irish Sea.   

Fears PM’s plan is basically the same as one considered by Theresa May: The customs partnership model which Mr Johnson is believed to have offered the EU is broadly based on proposals previously explored by Mrs May. Those proposals were dismissed at the time as being too difficult to implement. 

There are also concerns that they will effectively mean Northern Ireland being treated differently to the rest of the UK – a red line for the DUP and hardline Brexiteers. 

It was a knife-edge day of fresh shirts, Shawshank jokes and tortuous talks that see-sawed between hope and despair – but, asks Jack Doyle, did DUP leader Arlene Foster have the last laugh?

Addressing the Cabinet yesterday, Boris Johnson reached for a vivid cinematic reference to describe the state of the Brexit negotiations.

‘It’s a bit like The Shawshank Redemption. We’re in the tunnel,’ he said – using the EU’s term for the final, intense phase of the talks.

In the 1994 film, a prisoner crawls through a rancid mile-long sewage tunnel before finally tasting freedom.

Later, before the 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs, he compared the talks to climbing Everest, saying: ‘We are not quite at the summit, we are at the Hillary Step. The summit is not far but at the moment it is still shrouded in cloud.’

It was typical Boris – both summarising his predicament and raising a laugh, even when the chips are down.

But however easy he found it to make light of the situation, yesterday was a difficult day for the Prime Minister, and the first time he has tasted the intransigence of the DUP.

Yesterday was a difficult day for the Prime Minister, and the first time he has tasted the intransigence of the DUP (pictured, leader Arlene Foster)

Yesterday was a difficult day for the Prime Minister, and the first time he has tasted the intransigence of the DUP (pictured, leader Arlene Foster)

Yesterday was a difficult day for the Prime Minister, and the first time he has tasted the intransigence of the DUP (pictured, leader Arlene Foster)

It was Mr Johnson's (pictured) hopes of doing a deal which were scuppered by the Northern Irish party saying 'No, No, No'

It was Mr Johnson's (pictured) hopes of doing a deal which were scuppered by the Northern Irish party saying 'No, No, No'

It was Mr Johnson’s (pictured) hopes of doing a deal which were scuppered by the Northern Irish party saying ‘No, No, No’

Infamously, Theresa May had to pull out of December 2017 talks with Jean-Claude Juncker to take an hour-long call from a furious Arlene Foster, the DUP leader.

May could be forgiven for a wry smile at his predicament. One MP joked that she was probably ‘doing cartwheels down the corridor’ watching him suffer.

Poll: Most voters want deal

Most Britons who have an opinion on Brexit say they are still in favour of leaving the EU – but only with a deal, a survey has found.

Once ‘don’t knows’ are excluded, more than half of the public (54 per cent) want to see the Brexit referendum result honoured.

But the Comres poll of 26,000 adults – the biggest since the referendum – found most of those who want to leave would oppose a No Deal Brexit. The result of the poll, commissioned by Channel 5 and ITN, is a surprise because most recent surveys have found Remain narrowly ahead. It revealed the public is also against holding a second referendum.

A YouGov poll showed Boris Johnson is the most popular choice for PM (43 per cent) – even among young people and the working classes. Conservative MP Michael Fabricant said: ‘The desire to leave is hardening.’

For yesterday, it was her successor whose hopes of doing a deal were scuppered by the Northern Irish party saying ‘No, No, No’.

Late on Tuesday night, in the Berlaymont, the European Commission’s 13-storey Brussels headquarters, there was still optimism a deal could be done. On the fifth floor, the lights were still on as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s midnight deadline to agree a deal came and went.

After refuelling on sandwiches and pasta salad late in the evening, the negotiating teams, split between multiple rooms to cover more ground, persevered until 1.30am before calling it quits.

At one point a junior UK official was sent out to buy a bag load of white shirts for diplomats on the UK side who were running out of fresh clothes.

Mr Johnson’s chief negotiator David Frost, who leads a team of 25 officials, retired to the British ambassador’s opulent residence on Rue Ducale, but was back in the building at 9am, in one of the fresh shirts.

The negotiations resumed, Frost shuttling between the Commission and the UK Embassy, but to the dismay of the UK side – and despite the Commission briefing to the contrary – there was no Eureka! moment.

Late on Tuesday night, in the Berlaymont, the European Commission's 13-storey Brussels headquarters, there was still optimism a deal could be done. On the fifth floor, the lights were still on as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier's (pictured) midnight deadline to agree a deal came and went

Late on Tuesday night, in the Berlaymont, the European Commission's 13-storey Brussels headquarters, there was still optimism a deal could be done. On the fifth floor, the lights were still on as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier's (pictured) midnight deadline to agree a deal came and went

Late on Tuesday night, in the Berlaymont, the European Commission’s 13-storey Brussels headquarters, there was still optimism a deal could be done. On the fifth floor, the lights were still on as EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier’s (pictured) midnight deadline to agree a deal came and went

By mid-morning, it was clear why. Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds entered No 10 for talks with the PM by the back door, via the Cabinet office on Whitehall. They weren’t saying much, but a few hundred yards away in the House of Commons, the DUP’s Sammy Wilson spelled out the party’s demands when he erupted at Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay at a committee hearing.

The deal as it stands would mean Northern Ireland staying in parts of the single market and – in effect – accepting a customs border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. This represents a huge compromise for the unionist party.

Q&A

Why does the PM need the DUP?

With a Commons majority of minus 45, Boris Johnson needs all the help he can get to push a deal through. The DUP has just ten MPs. But, crucially, Tory members of the pro-Brexit European Research Group have suggested they will not support any deal unless the DUP is happy.

Why is the DUP holding out?

The unionist party insists that any withdrawal from the EU must not affect the integrity of the United Kingdom. That is why it was against Theresa May’s backstop, which it said effectively gave Dublin a veto over Ulster leaving the EU. If a general election is around the corner, as expected, the DUP will be keen to be seen to be sticking to its red lines as closely as possible to avoid losing seats to rival parties.

Has it given any ground?

Few details of the talks have leaked out. However, it is understood that the DUP might be prepared to accept Mr Johnson’s controversial proposals for a customs border down the Irish Sea. This would mean that while Northern Ireland remains in the UK customs zone in theory, it would also be in the EU customs zone because checks would take place at ports on the Irish Sea.

What is the stumbling block?

THE DUP will only sign up to the deal if it contains a ‘consent mechanism’ for Northern Ireland. The party wants an injection of democracy into the process with the Stormont Assembly allowed to sign off the new arrangements. Mr Johnson proposed a vote in advance and one every four years, but this has gone down badly in Brussels and Dublin because they fear that it would give unionists a rolling veto.

Is money an issue?

THE DUP has been adept at prising out extra cash for Northern Ireland in return for helping the Conservatives – it got money out of Mrs May to prop up her government after the disastrous 2017 election in which she lost her majority. It is believed the unionist party may be trying to get more cash in return for signing up to the deal.

Could UK ministers make concessions?

LABOUR MP Stella Creasy claimed last night that in an attempt to get an EU deal through, ministers had offered to allow the Northern Ireland Assembly a vote on whether to legalise abortion in the province. That would overturn a vote in Westminster that took place in the summer.

Are there splits in the DUP?

IT appears so. While some more moderate members would consider concessions to allow a deal to be done, others – including Westminster leader Nigel Dodds – are holding out. Another DUP MP, Sammy Wilson, said yesterday that failing to allow a consent mechanism would breach the Good Friday Agreement.

What they want, Wilson barked, was ‘cross-community consent’ for the proposal, something he said was required under the Good Friday Agreement. What this means is a vote, or multiple votes, in Stormont, to approve the deal.

The Cabinet meeting was called in the hope Johnson would be able to brief ministers on a deal, but none was available.

While staying upbeat, and delivering his Shawshank Redemption line, he told them: ‘There’s a chance of securing a good deal but we are not there yet.’

Back in Brussels, the EU had other ideas. The anonymous ‘EU sources’ who have enraged No 10 for the past three years, were ‘at it again’, one senior source told me. They briefed friendly journalists that a deal was done. A ‘technical agreement’ had been reached, and the DUP were onside. This was seen in No 10 as a blatant attempt to bounce Mr Johnson into accepting the agreement as it stood. And only hardened the DUP’s resolve.

The source said: ‘The EU haven’t helped with endless babbling about a deal having been done. That briefing was phenomenally unhelpful. People read that stuff and it makes it harder to get this thing over the line.’ Barnier’s deadline slipped and slipped. Due to brief member states at 2pm on the deal, that was pushed back to 5pm and then 7pm. At 4.30pm, Johnson did a five-minute turn at the 1922 Committee of Tory backbenchers, with nothing to announce.

But the Shawshank line went down well. ‘He’s saying he’s up to his eyeballs in s*** but not to give up’, said one MP. Tory MP Mark Francois, deputy chairman of the European Research Group of Brexiteers, said: ‘It was vintage Boris Johnson. It was enthusiastic. It was uplifting. It was positive.’

Some Cabinet ministers are also upbeat about the deal. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox told Cabinet: ‘Last time we were in the seventh circle of hell; this time I’m in an airy villa with a lovely view.’

Yet last night in No 10, the mood was downcast. Johnson’s proposal for a vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly to approve the deal, and one every four years thereafter, hasn’t survived contact with Brussels. It’s far from clear what he can extract from the EU that the DUP will accept. And the grim truth is that without their support, he can’t get his deal through, and there’s little point even turning up to today’s EU Council summit.

In the absence of a deal, the looming deadline set by the Benn Act will force him, on Saturday, to ditch his ‘come what may, do or die’ pledge and delay Brexit. He’s riding high in the polls, but after an extension? Will Leave voters blame the MPs who agreed the ‘Surrender Act’ or will they blame him?

Privately, Mr Johnson’s most senior advisers haven’t given up hope. Perhaps they’re right to, and he will emerge odorous but victorious.

Or perhaps they should be reading another line from Shawshank, delivered by hard-bitten lag Red, played by Morgan Freeman: ‘Let me tell you something, my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.’

Super Saturday’s on the brink: Boris urges MPs to back the first weekend sitting since Falklands

by John Stevens, deputy political editor 

Boris Johnson last night tabled plans for a ‘super Saturday’ Parliamentary sitting to get a Brexit deal through the Commons – even as rebel MPs threatened to wreck his hopes.

The Government laid a motion for both Houses of Parliament to sit from 9.30am until 2pm on Saturday, which will be voted on by MPs today.

Should the motion pass, the Commons will sit on Saturday for the first time since the Falklands War in 1982. 

The Prime Minister hopes to use the session for MPs to debate – and pass – any Brexit deal he brings back from this week’s crunch Brussels summit.

But yesterday, ringleaders of the 21 MPs who recently had the Conservative whip removed said their support for a deal would be conditional on Mr Johnson first seeking an extension beyond October 31 – or backing a second referendum. 

They are said to be concerned that hardline members of the European Research Group could double-cross the Government by backing a Withdrawal Agreement but then withdrawing their support and voting against the actual legislation needed to implement it.

They also don’t believe there is enough time left before October 31 to pass the laws required.

It makes it even more difficult for the Prime Minister to get the numbers he needs to get a deal through the Commons, as Theresa May failed to do three times.

It makes it even more difficult for the Prime Minister to get the numbers he needs to get a deal through the Commons, as Theresa May (pictured) failed to do three times

It makes it even more difficult for the Prime Minister to get the numbers he needs to get a deal through the Commons, as Theresa May (pictured) failed to do three times

It makes it even more difficult for the Prime Minister to get the numbers he needs to get a deal through the Commons, as Theresa May (pictured) failed to do three times

Last night, the leader of the Independent Group for Change, former Conservative MP Anna Soubry, hinted at opposition to Saturday’s debate. 

She said: ‘It is increasingly clear Johnson’s ‘new’ deal is worse than May’s. Parliament will get five hours’ debate on Saturday without any independent assessments, analysis or select committee scrutiny of the most important set of decisions we will make in generations. That’s plain wrong.’

If Britain and the EU cannot finalise the legal text of a deal before Saturday, it is possible MPs could be asked to hold an ‘indicative vote’ on the outline of the plan – to prove the Prime Minister can command the support of the Commons.

An EU source last night claimed European leaders could even refuse to sign off on a new deal until the Prime Minister shows he can make the arithmetic work among MPs.

Remarkably, it has even been suggested that opposition MPs might vote down the motion for the Saturday sitting. 

The so-called Benn Act passed by MPs trying to prevent No Deal states the Prime Minister must write to Brussels asking for an extension if Parliament does not agree to a deal by Saturday.

One Cabinet minister said MPs could block the Saturday sitting.

The minister said: ‘There are a lot of MPs who claim they want a delay because they want to prevent No Deal, but actually they just want to stop Brexit altogether. 

They just do not want to admit that publicly because they fear a backlash from their constituents.

‘MPs could stop us having a vote on a deal on Saturday because they fear it will pass, and they know without one the Prime Minister will have to ask for an extension. That is one step towards their goal of blocking Brexit entirely.’

Former Tory Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt said it would be ‘pretty blooming amazing’ if anyone voted against the motion for the Saturday session.

Yesterday, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay told MPs that Mr Johnson would comply with the Benn Act by writing a letter to Brussels asking for a delay if a deal was not approved by Saturday, following fears the PM could try to scupper an extension with a second contradictory letter or ask a member state to block an extension.

 

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