Boris Johnson scrambles for support on Brexit deal: Live updates

 edition.cnn.com  10/18/2019 13:00:06  3

Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

French President Emmanuel Macron has said he does not support another Brexit delay in the event that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson cannot pass his deal on Saturday.

"So we can turn to the future, I believe we shall stick to the deadline of the 31st October," Macron told reporters during a press conference in Brussels at the EU Council summit.

"That being said, Im not trying to predict the future, but I do not think we shall grant any further delay. I believe it is now time to put an end to these negotiations and work on the future relationship and put an end to what is currently ongoing," he added.

"There shall be no delay unless there are some major changes."

Why this matters: Macron has played hardball before when it comes to Brexit extensions, and it's no surprise that he's reprising the role now. A Brexit delay needs to be signed off by all 27 remaining EU leaders, so a French veto would block it. But on two previous occasions, Macron's apparent reluctance to grant a delay was eventually overcome -- and forcing a no-deal split is arguably no more desirable now for the EU than it was when Theresa May was Prime Minister.

More pressingly for Johnson, Macron's comments suggest EU leaders are happy to give him all the help they can in passing his deal. By framing the issue as Johnson's deal vs no deal, the PM will hope his team can focus minds on opposing benches to support the pact.

Leon Neal/Getty Images
Leon Neal/Getty Images

Boris Johnson's optimism has rolled into Friday, if conversations with his allies are anything to go by.

Rather than trying to pressure those he's worried might not support his deal, Johnson and his team are having constructive conversations.

"I dont think there is a great deal of arm twisting per se. Much more about cajoling, giving briefings and accurate information (as opposed to rumor and misinformation which is rife).Not heard of anything more," one government minister explained to CNN.

For the time being, this seems to be true. The government is confident that it nearly has the numbers. Efforts to win over wavering opposition MPs have been handled in the same way, with as much information being offered as possible while reminding those who would prefer a softer Brexit that there is no guarantee of getting an extension if they vote down Johnson's deal.

Whether this gets them anywhere near or not is another matter and Johnson still has a huge trust issue to overcome. It will take something pretty spectacular to win the support of people who think that he has behaved irresponsibly and thrown Northern Ireland under the bus to get a deal. But right now, Downing Street is smiles and sunshine.

As we keep an eye on floating MPs who may or may not declare how they'll vote on Saturday, here's a broader look at the noises coming out of different corners of Westminster.

Trade Secretary Liz Truss is making the government's case for the deal, saying it will give Britain the freedom to "go our own way."

But Steve Baker, the chair of the all-important, hardline ERG group of Conservatives, is keeping quiet on how the bloc will vote before they meet on Saturday morning.

Labour MPs, meanwhile, are expressing concern about the long-term consequences of Johnson's deal. Referencing reports that hardline Tories are seeking to ensure a no deal is still on the table at the end of the agreement's extension period, shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said its "end destination is a damaging right-wing project" -- and Jess Phillips said she cannot trust Boris Johnson.

Meanwhile, Green MP Caroline Lucas says the deal gets worse each time she looks at it.

TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

As Boris Johnson's team races around Westminster to drum up support for his deal, all eyes are focused on three separate groups of MPs who could fall either side of the debate.

Broadly speaking, the three vital groups are:

  • Hardline Conservatives: There are 28 self-styled "Spartans" -- hardline Conservative MPs who voted down Theresa May's deal all three times, and back a hard Brexit. A handful of those are now on the government's payroll, so are almost certain to back the deal. And some, including European Research Group (ERG) head Steve Baker, have signaled a willingness to back the plan once they've picked through it in more detail. But they're not a totally homogeneous block, and even a couple of holdouts could spell doom for Johnson.
  • Ex-Conservative independents: Johnson took the whip away from 21 Conservative MPs last month, after they voted to block a no-deal Brexit. Many of them are expected to back the deal now, while a handful who support a second referendum are likely noes. But some, including former Cabinet members Amber Rudd, Philip Hammond and Ken Clarke, haven't said which way they'll vote yet.
  • Labour rebels: Five Labour MPs backed Theresa May's deal, but as many as 20 could be up for grabs this time. With an election looming and several of these lawmakers representing Leave-voting regions, they could make the calculation that backing a Brexit deal is vital to electoral success. What's more, there's been no sign that Jeremy Corbyn will expel those who support the government.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will hold a Cabinet meeting at 4 p.m. (11 a.m. ET) Friday, ahead of Saturday's crucial parliamentary vote on his Brexit deal, a Downing Street spokesperson told CNN.

A handful of hardline Tory MPs who voted down previous Prime Minister Theresa May's deal on all three opportunities have since been elevated to Johnson's cabinet, such as Home Secretary Priti Patel, which assures their support for his plan.

Johnson and his team will be speaking to MPs across Parliament, the spokesperson added, and if the deal is approved on Saturday the legislative procedure to implement it could begin as early as Monday.

Boris Johnson's deal has been backed by Leave.EU, one of the two major Brexit campaign groups during the 2016 referendum, which has since promoted a no-deal Brexit.

The group said it will support the deal, despite preferring a "purer" Brexit. In doing so, Leave.EU is breaking from Nigel Farage, with whom it has campaigned with in the past.

Farage, who leads the anti-EU Brexit Party, came out against Johnson's deal almost immediately after it was announced on Thursday, saying it doesn't go far enough.

Parliament's Treasury Committee has demanded a fresh economic forecast on the cost of leaving the European Union with Boris Johnson's new deal, before lawmakers vote on whether to approve it on Saturday.

The group's acting chair Catherine McKinnell has written to Chancellor Sajid Javid demanding the governments finance ministry provide an updated economic analysis.

MPs are being asked to vote on a Brexit deal on Saturday without all the relevant information - the government must provide it urgently, she tweeted alongside the letter.

The government last provided an economic Brexit impact assessment in November 2018. It said the UK would be worse off under all scenarios studied by Theresa Mays government.

TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images
TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

Tomorrow's sitting in Parliament is historic and unusual. MPs have only sat on a Saturday four times before, most recently to deal with the outbreak of the Falklands War in 1982.

The first notable event will be a behind-closed-doors meeting of the European Research Group, or ERG -- the all-important bloc of Brexit hardliners in the Conservative Party, who mostly refused to support Theresa May's deal three times.

Then Boris Johnson will address Parliament from 9:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. ET), kicking off what could be a mammoth debate in the chamber over his Brexit deal.

There is no end time specified on the order paper; discussions can continue "until any hour."

But if the deal isn't passed by 11 p.m., Johnson is required by law to request a Brexit delay -- so he'll be looking to conclude proceedings well before then.

KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images
KENZO TRIBOUILLARD/AFP via Getty Images

Boris Johnsonhas taken the first step up his Brexit mountain. If he's careless, he could be buried under an avalanche.

As he travels back to London from Brussels, the British Prime Minister has good reason to feel upbeat. He was told he'd never get anew Brexit dealand that his plans to replace the Irish border backstop were anon-starter.Yet, as his swaggering senior advisers were keen to point out to journalists here in Brussels,he's proved everyone wrong.

That's the good news. The bad news is that he might have kicked off a chain of events that could bring his time as Prime Minister to a premature end. He now faces what will be two of the most painful days of his career back in London.

On Friday, Johnson will have to convince lawmakers across the political divide that they should back his new Brexit deal.

It's a tough ask.

Johnson's new deal looks a hell of a lot like Theresa May's hated deal. In reality, pretty much all that Johnson has done is remove one part of the Withdrawal Agreement -- the Irish backstop -- and replace it with something much more complicated. And Johnson, it mustn't be forgotten, voted against May's deal -- twice. Hisresignation from May's cabinetover her Brexit plans began the backlash that ultimately ended her premiership.

Read more from Luke McGee here.

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