Black Country MPs react as moment of truth finally arrives for EU divorce
MPs are set for crunch time over Brexit after the EU moved to scupper Remainer plans for another delay.
The Commons is set to vote on Boris Johnson’s new deal in a rare Saturday sitting tomorrow, with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker warning there would be no extension to the October 31 leave date.
Mr Juncker’s intervention served as a body blow to anti-Brexit MPs, who are pinning their hopes on securing a further delay to Britain’s departure.
It came after Mr Johnson announced he had struck a “great new deal” shortly before heading to the key summit of EU leaders in Brussels, which concludes today.
The deal has been met with opposition from Tory allies the DUP, due to issues over the integrity of the Union, the Good Friday Agreement and Northern Ireland’s economy.
However, Mr Johnson is believed to be confident of getting the 320 votes needed for the deal to pass a meaningful vote on Saturday.
His plan was met with a positive response from the ERG, with chairman Steve Baker suggesting they would back it after “limited remaining concerns” were dealt with.
And Tory MPs across the West Midlands have urged Parliament to back the PM’s deal in tomorrow’s showdown.
Walsall North MP Eddie Hughes said: “A few weeks ago people were saying it was impossible to reopen the withdrawal agreement and make changes to the backstop, but that is precisely what Boris has done. It is now imperative that MPs back the deal so we can get on with other priorities.”
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Aldridge-Brownhills MP Wendy Morton said: “We have a good deal that will enable us to do what people want us to do – get Brexit done and move on with the other areas of policy. It is now time for Parliament to view this as a chance to respect the result of the 2016 referendum.”
Dudley South MP Mike Wood said: “This is a deal that – against the odds – seems to have won people over.
“It offers pretty much everything that we are looking for Brexit to deliver, keeping our country together and having the close trading relationships and cooperation that British jobs rely on.
"Any MP who does not support it could lead to us leaving with no deal or not leaving at all. I would like to hear how they plan to explain that to their constituents.”
Lichfield MP Michael Fabricant said the PM’s team had “pulled a blinder” in securing the deal.
“Now that the backstop has been scrapped which would have kept the United Kingdom in the EU indefinitely for as long as the EU wanted, I can enthusiastically support Boris’ new deal,” he said.
Remainers were quick to dismiss the PM’s deal, with Jeremy Corbyn criticising it for creating a customs border in the Irish sea, while the SNP ruled out supporting it.
Pat McFadden, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East, said: “At first glance the deal looks like it is a lot harder Brexit than Theresa May’s deal. However, I am very conscious of the country’s weariness and frustration with this whole process.”
Business leaders gave the deal a warm reception. CBI director general Carolyn Fairbairn, said: “If agreed by parliament, this deal unlocks a transition period, guarantees rights of the four million citizens living abroad in the UK and EU, and opens a pathway to a new EU/UK partnership.
“It would keep trade flowing freely across the island of Ireland and, most importantly, avoid a damaging no deal scenario.”
Crunch weekend ahead
Meanwhile, Labour MP Hilary Benn has written a letter to Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay asking for the Government to release an impact assessment for the deal before Saturday’s vote.
But Chancellor Sajid Javid appeared to refuse the request when he said there was “no need” for an impact assessment, according to Sky News.
Making Saturday even more crucial, the European Parliament’s chief Brexit official, Guy Verhofstadt, said the EU legislature will take its full time to carefully examine and approve any divorce deal.
He said MEPs will only start their work once the UK Parliament has passed a fully binding Brexit deal, and if that slips past the European plenary session next week, it may have to be picked up in the session that begins on November 13.
On Thursday, MPs approved a motion to hold the first weekend sitting of Parliament since the Falklands conflict, and if Parliament does not vote for the agreement on Saturday, Mr Johnson faces an almighty clash over whether he will request a further Brexit delay from Brussels as he is compelled to under the Benn Act.
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The stance of the DUP is particularly important because the party wields influence over some hardline Tory Brexiteers and Mr Johnson is far short of a majority in Parliament.
In an attempt to persuade the doubters, Commons leader and former ERG chair Jacob Rees-Mogg said he thought the deal is “a triumph of negotiating”.
A total of 635 votes will be in play when the deal is debated, which means the Government will need at least 318 votes to be certain of a majority.
If every Conservative MP who is able to vote also backs the deal, this gives the Government 285 votes.
Mr Johnson did not rule out suspending the whip from Tories who rebelled on Saturday, or say whether he would welcome back the 21 he exiled for previously voting against his will.