- Johnson is inching towards securing the numbers he needs in parliament to force through his Brexit deal.
- The UK is engaged in intense negotiations to secure a deal which Johnson can bring back from Brussels, although it appears unlikely he will secure one by Thursday’s crunch summit of EU leaders.
- Brexit-backing Conservative MPs who consistently voted against Theresa May’s Brexit deal have started to indicate they are willing to support the prime minister’s deal.
- A handful of Labour MPs in Leave-voting seats say they are willing to back a deal which has the EU’s approval, but it is unclear whether they are actually willing to vote for a deal Johnson secures.
- Conservative MPs are worried Labour could try to force through a second referendum instead of an election.
LONDON — Boris Johnson is getting close to securing the support he needs to pass a Brexit deal, as fears grow among pro-Brexit members of Parliament that pro-Europeans are rapidly mobilising behind plans to trigger a second referendum.
UK officials negotiated through the night in Brussels on Monday as both sides race to see whether a deal can be negotiated in time for this week’s EU summit.
Failure to agree a deal this week will mean that Johnson is legally obliged to request an extension to Britain’s Brexit deadline of October 31.
Pro-Brexit MPs are coming behind backing a deal due to fears that anti-Brexit MPs will use any extension to push for another referendum.
Hopes of a breakthrough in Brussels were dampened on Monday however, when several senior EU figures suggested there simply wasn’t enough time left to secure an agreement this week.
Antti Rinn, the Finnish prime minister, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said late on Monday that “there is no time in a practical or legal way” to secure a deal by Thursday’s summit.
However, the EU is reportedly considering organising an emergency summit before October 31, which could pave the way for the UK to leave the EU by the Halloween deadline, even if an extension is agreed.
If and when he is able to agree a deal, the prime minister needs to win the support of the 28 Conservative MPs who voted consistently against Theresa May’s Brexit deal, as well as the Democratic Unionist Party and probably a handful of opposition Labour MPs.
The 28 Brexit-backing Tory MPs, who call themselves the “Spartans,” appear to be inching towards backing Johnson’s deal if he is able to bring back one from Brussels, partly because they are worried Labour could try to force through a second referendum instead of an election.
Lee Rowley, one of the self-styled “Spartans,” said on Monday that he had shifted his position and was now ready to back a deal, even though the details of Johnson’s proposals remain unclear.
“We are in a hard place and all of us, whatever bench or chair we sit in, are responsible for where we end up,” he said.
“In the last few days, there is at least hope that this toxic and crippling fog, which we have created, might just be lifting as the prime minister sketches the outline of a way forward – and I speak as someone who has been robust in my review of previous proposals, but the House must surely see that we have debated long enough,” he said.
“This is a moment for decision and we were elected to make decisions. If there is light at the end of the tunnel later this week, and heaven knows I hope there will be, we have a fundamental responsibility in this place to try and resolve this most vexed of problems and allow our despairing country to move on. For the health of our democracy and to restore faith in this most venerable of institutions, in my view we simply must get Brexit done.
Several other Spartans are now on the government payroll, including Home Secretary Priti Patel, and are more likely to vote for a deal.
And leading Eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg, who voted against May’s deal twice, said last week he was willing to compromise and “eat my words” after previously indicating he would vote against a deal.
The Democratic Unionist Party, which supports Brexit and lends Johnson’s minority government 11 votes in parliament, has so far been cold towards Johnson’s floated plan because it could involve keeping Northern Ireland in some sort of separate customs arrangement with the EU, to which the rest of the UK was not subject.
But Downing Street may not need those votes after indications from a handful of Labour MPs in Leave-voting seats who say they are willing to back a deal which has the EU’s approval.
It comes amid fears that Labour could formally instruct MPs to back a second referendum instead of the general election which Boris Johnson is seeking.
While the party’s Jeremy Corbyn says an election is still his priority, he appears almost completely isolated with even his closest allies defying him and pushing for a confirmatory vote on any deal Johnson brings back.
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About 18 Labour MPs signed a letter last week urging the EU to work towards a deal, and said they were willing to consider backing a deal. Backbenchers including Melanie Onn, Stephen Kinnock, Gareth Snell, and Gloria De Piero have all indicated they are willing to back a deal.
However, they are likely to come under intense pressure from colleagues who would accuse them of helping to deliver a Conservative-led Brexit and provide a major boost to Johnson’s premiership.
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