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  • The consensus of this morning’s media is that a new Brexit deal will be agreed today between Boris Johnson’s Government and the EU – though one cannot be sure.
  • The cornerstone of it appears to be that under its terms Northern Ireland would be de facto in the Customs Union and de jure with Great Britain.  But we await further details and in particular a legal text.
  • If so, the deal will be less Unionist than Theresa May’s but perhaps more free-trading.  The Prime Minister appears to be going for low alignment and “Canada Plus Plus Plus”.
  • The DUP haven’t come out for the plan but hasn’t come out against it either.  It says that “it would be fair to indicate gaps remain and further work is required”.
  • As ConservativeHome reported, the European Research Group will meet before the Commons assembles on Saturday morning, and its officers will make a recommendation.
  • Steve Baker said yesterday evening that he is “optimistic it is possible to reach a tolerable deal”, but Owen Paterson is decidedly pessimistic on this site today.
  • If the deal indeed envisages a Canada-type future for Britain, huge pressure will be put on Labour MPs who are for an agreement not to vote for it.
  • We are not convinced that the numbers are necessarily there in the Commons. A snap count suggests that the Government might lose by roughly 314 to 320. (We will set out our figures in full later.)
  • Jeremy Corbyn is bound to oppose any deal, as will the Liberal Democrats, the SNP and Plaid Cymru.  He may well push for a Customs Union vote as an alternative to a second referendum.
  • Much may hang on what the whipless 21 former Conservative MPs do, but Philip Hammond’s longstanding hostility to a Canada-style deal is worth noting.
  • Johnson’s established position is that the whip will be withdrawn from Tory MPs who oppose any deal that he supports.  Might some of the 21 return to the fold as some Spartans are expelled from it?
  • And if the Prime Minister sticks to that position, might some of them defect to the Brexit Party – giving it its first MPs.
  • Priti Patel and Theresa Villiers voted against May’s Withdrawal Agreement third time round.  Will either resign?  Might some junior Ministers?
  • Downing Street seems still to be holding out against an extension, but the EU appears to be pushing for one.
  • It defies common sense to believe that a legal text can be agreed and clear Parliament with adequate scrutiny by October 31.
  • So it is possible that the Commons won’t meet on Saturday at all.  But if it does the usual suspects may push for a second referendum, although they don’t appear to have the numbers.
  • If it meets and there has been no deal, it now seems more likely that Johnson will bow to an extension rather than resign or break the law – though he may not yield immediately.
  • Number Ten is buoyed by the opinion, and the suggestion that voters may not punish the Prime Minister in the event of an extension.  We are dubious.
  • All in all, if a deal is agreed it may not get through the Commons at all.  And if one isn’t, the second referendum v general election debate will go up several gears.

213 comments for: Johnson’s plan. Less Unionist than May’s deal but more free-trading?

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