Former Prime Minister Theresa May tried three times and failed. Three times she did not have the support of the Northern Irish DUP, the tolerant partner of the Conservative British government. Will British Prime Minister Boris Johnson manage to find enough supporters to get his Brexit deal through the Lower House on Saturday?
Expected timetable for Super Saturday
- The session starts at 10.30 a.m. Dutch time.
- Boris Johnson gives a speech and answers questions.
- A decision on the number of amendments is made.
- Amendments are expected to be voted on in the afternoon.
- How long this will take depends on how many are chosen.
- Vote on the deal will take place in the late afternoon or early evening.
Johnson managed to make a deal with the EU on Thursday morning. The heads of government of the other 27 EU Member States put their signatures under the agreement during the afternoon.
It is, as we all know, not the first time the UK has made a deal with the EU. However, the Irish border issue time and time again proved to be the major stumbling block for the British lower house members; what kind of border should there be after the transition period?
May created the backstop as a solution. As a result, in the first version Northern Ireland and in later versions the entire UK would remain in the European customs union if no other solution had been found during that period. Johnson has scrapped this unpopular solution and replaced it with another scheme.
According to the agreement, Northern Ireland - until the UK and the EU formally conclude a trade agreement - must abide by the rules of the European internal market. As a result, there is no hard border on the Irish island. The Northern Irish, on the other hand, remain in the British Customs Union. But the big question is whether the British parliament will agree to this.
263Brexit agreement reached: "But we are not there yet"
"Boris Johnson bets on two horses"
Johnson needs the support of 320 British Lower House members to get his deal through. But his party, which was already dependent on DUP's Northern Irish tolerance partner, lost the majority in parliament at the beginning of September. If even May has failed three times with a majority, why would Johnson try again?
According to European expert Rem Korteweg, it will be difficult for Johnson to steer his deal through parliament. "Boris Johnson bets on two horses. If he does not get through this agreement, he will ask for a delay in Brussels." The Benn law is still in force. The Brexit deadline then shifts to January 31, 2020, leaving enough time for new elections.
"Johnson will start a tough campaign and put the blame on the parliament," Korteweg says. "The prime minister will capitalize on the fact that he has managed to get a deal and that this was the best that could be achieved. He will portray parliament as the major obstacle, preventing him from taking the Brexit - which the people want - to deliver."
The prime minister takes a gamble with this, because in principle he suffers two major defeats. First, he loses the vote on his deal. Secondly, he can throw his mantra "The Brexit will take place anyway on October 31, with or without a deal" in the trash.
In the latest polls, however, Johnson is in good shape (32 percent of the votes), followed by Labor (22 percent) and the Liberal Democrats (18 percent).
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A rough representation of the proportions in the British House of Commons. Click on the image for the infographic.
Chances that prime minister gets majority for deal is growing
It is not certain whether Johnson already assumes he will not get his deal through. The prime minister may have put his hope in a majority, for which he needs independent members of parliament, opposition members and the DUP.
The Northern Irish tolerance party has ten seats in parliament, but said in a response on Thursday that it could not immediately support this deal. Various opposition parties, such as Labor and the Liberal Democrats, have already said they will not vote for the agreement.
The prime minister needs 320 of the 639 voters in the Lower House. His own party only counts 287 Tories, after 23 of them left the party last summer. On Friday, a number of Conservatives announced that they would vote for the deal as one unified block. The rebellious former Tories and the Conservatives who were kicked out of the party would also join this. But it is not yet certain whether they will really do all of this.
Since the DUP has already indicated that it does not support the agreement, Johnson is not there yet if all (old) Tories have it. He will therefore also need the support of a number of independent Members of Parliament and doubting Labor members. May sometimes had some opposition with it, but even with the DUP the gap was always too big. On Friday, however, about nine Labor members announced that they support the deal.
Analyzes by various British media show on Friday afternoon that support for Johnson fluctuates around 318. So this time it can start to tense. But if we have learned one thing from the past three years, it is that we should never assume anything.
See also: 'Brexit agreement by Lagerhuis getting difficult, not impossible'
Johnson plays rock hard bluff poker against DUP
Johnson has to put everything on everything and plays hard bluff poker. For example, he would like to try to sell the scenario "It's this, or a no-deal Brexit" to parliament. The prime minister hopes that the EU leaders will play the game with him, but according to Korteweg, the EU leaders will really not be stuck by saying that there will be no delay.
"The DUP in particular can be sensitive to this, because a no deal is very harmful to Northern Ireland," Korteweg said. "But because the parties also know that there is a big chance of delay, they will not be scared so quickly."
Saturday, renamed Super Saturday, will again be an exciting day at the British House of Commons.
From left to right: British Brexit minister Stephen Barclay, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Brexit negotiator on behalf of the EU Michel Barnier after the EU summit in Brussels on 17 October.