Boris Johnson fails to win over DUP and ERG for Brexit deal

Boris Johnson tried to put a brave face on his crumbling hopes of a Brexit deal tonight as he teed up a massive ‘Super Saturday’ showdown with MPs.

UK and EU negotiators are frantically trying to find a way through the deadlock in time for tomorrow’s Brussels summit, with European Council president Donald Tusk saying it will be obvious by late tonight whether they have succeeded. 

‘Theoretically in seven to eight hours everything should be clear,’ he told the TVN 24 channel.

But the delicate process has been placed in jeopardy by objections from the DUP, who complained that the mechanism for getting ‘consent’ from the people of Northern Ireland would break the Good Friday Agreement – saying unionists should have a veto.

Despite the standoff, Mr Johnson suggested at Cabinet this afternoon that he still hoped the DUP could be won over. And he told a gathering of Tory MPs this evening that the government was on the ‘Hillary Step’ about to reach the summit of Mount Everest. 

He also insisted: ‘If it is not possible to achieve a deal we will still leave the EU on the 31st of October.’

Downing Street confirmed the government will now table a motion for the Commons to sit on Saturday – the first Saturday sitting since the Falklands War. 

If there is a deal at the summit tomorrow MPs will be asked to approve it on Saturday, but if not Mr Johnson is expected to stage a vote on whether to delay Brexit or go for No Deal. Remainers are also preparing a bid to force a second referendum, as the struggle for the country’s future intensifies. 

Amid desperate efforts to win over the DUP – whose 10 MPs are seen as critical to unlocking a Parliamentary majority for a deal – there are hotly denied claims that billions of pounds more funding for Northern Ireland is on the table as a sweetener. 

The unionists’ leader Arlene Foster was in No10 for more talks this afternoon, but there are little signs that progress has been made. She has dismissed EU claims reported by Irish broadcaster RTE that she had given in on key issues.

One Cabinet minister told MailOnline there was ‘guarded optimism’ over the chances of getting the DUP on board but they insisted the government is preparing to fight to get Brexit done by October 31 if a resolution cannot be found.

‘We will be ready if the DUP can’t be won over,’ they said.

Despite the EU’s Michel Barnier setting a deadline of last night for a deal to be finalised in time for tomorrow’s summit, a meeting of ambassadors from member states has been delayed twice to allow a few more hours of wrangling. 

If the deadlock persists it means Mr Johnson will be caught by a Remainer law ordering him to ask the bloc for an extension beyond October 31. 

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay seemed to confirm today that Mr Johnson would comply with the law and send a letter requesting a delay on Saturday – but caused confusion by condemning the idea of even a short ‘technical’ postponement. 

There are claims the premier could try to dodge the legislation by sending a second contradictory letter, or getting another EU state to veto an extension. 

Irish PM Leo Varadkar had earlier conceded there are still ‘many issues’ still to be resolved, hinting that an emergency summit might be needed in around a fortnight’s time.

But French president Emmanuel Macron was more optimistic this evening as he said he wanted ‘to believe that a deal is being finalized’.

Boris Johnson in Downing Street today. He has teed up a massive 'Super Saturday' showdown with MPs as his hopes of a Brexit deal look to be crumbling amid DUP opposition.

Boris Johnson in Downing Street today. He has teed up a massive 'Super Saturday' showdown with MPs as his hopes of a Brexit deal look to be crumbling amid DUP opposition.

Boris Johnson in Downing Street today. He has teed up a massive ‘Super Saturday’ showdown with MPs as his hopes of a Brexit deal look to be crumbling amid DUP opposition.

The unionists' leader Arlene Foster (pictured with deputy Nigel Dodds today) was in No10 for more talks this afternoon, but there are little signs that progress was made

The unionists' leader Arlene Foster (pictured with deputy Nigel Dodds today) was in No10 for more talks this afternoon, but there are little signs that progress was made

The unionists’ leader Arlene Foster (pictured with deputy Nigel Dodds today) was in No10 for more talks this afternoon, but there are little signs that progress was made

DUP leader Arlene Foster dismissed briefings from the EU this afternoon that she had given ground on the consent issue

DUP leader Arlene Foster dismissed briefings from the EU this afternoon that she had given ground on the consent issue

DUP leader Arlene Foster dismissed briefings from the EU this afternoon that she had given ground on the consent issue

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier looked to be feeling the pace today as he attending meetings in Brussels

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier looked to be feeling the pace today as he attending meetings in Brussels

EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier looked to be feeling the pace today as he attending meetings in Brussels 

Irish PM Leo Varadkar warned this morning that there are still 'many issues' still to be solved, hinting that an emergency summit might be needed in around a fortnight's time

Irish PM Leo Varadkar warned this morning that there are still 'many issues' still to be solved, hinting that an emergency summit might be needed in around a fortnight's time

Boris Johnson (pictured outside 10 Downing Street yesterday) is scrambling to get a Brexit deal that can satisfy Tory hardliners and the DUP

Boris Johnson (pictured outside 10 Downing Street yesterday) is scrambling to get a Brexit deal that can satisfy Tory hardliners and the DUP

Irish PM Leo Varadkar( pictured left today)  warned this morning that there are still ‘many issues’ still to be solved, hinting that an emergency summit might be needed in around a fortnight’s time. Boris Johnson (pictured right outside 10 Downing Street yesterday) is scrambling to get a Brexit deal that can satisfy Tory hardliners and the DUP 

What happens next in the Brexit process?

What happens if Boris Johnson gets a deal today or tomorrow?

Time is now short for a deal to be agreed in time for EU leaders to rubber-stamp it at tomorrow’s summit in Brussels. 

If a deal is agreed just before get together starts the EU could try to shift the Brexit debate until Friday afternoon in a bid to allow the bloc to check, translate and print the deal.

What happens if the PM doesn’t get a deal today or tomorrow?  

If the two sides fail to agree terms then the next 48 hours will become incredibly unpredictable. 

Given that both sides have said progress is being made in the talks it is likely that those efforts would continue.

But the immediate focus of the EU and UK will shift to whether there will be a Brexit delay. 

The PM doesn’t want one but if no deal is agreed by October 19 he will be legally required by the Benn Act to ask for one. 

What will happen on Saturday?

The government today confirmed it intends to make Parliament sit on Saturday. 

If there is a deal agreed with the EU then MPs will be asked to vote on it.

If there is not a deal then the PM could ask MPs to vote for a No Deal Brexit – a vote he would almost certainly lose.

MPs could also try to force a vote on holding a second Brexit referendum. 

What will happen next week?

If a deal has been agreed and MPs vote for it on Saturday then the UK will be on course for an orderly split from the EU on October 31. 

If no agreement is in place things will be more chaotic.  

Barring a dramatic development, by Monday Mr Johnson will have been forced to ask the EU for a Brexit delay and the bloc is likely to grant one.

With No Deal officially off the table opposition parties could then decide to vote in favour of the snap general election which the PM has long called for. 

If they do vote for an election then polling day could be set for either the end of November or the start of December.

The ‘compromise’ on the table is thought to revolve around installing a de facto customs border between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain – but keeping the UK legally intact and offering businesses in the province rebates to offset any tariff differences. 

The UK had initially suggested a Stormont ‘lock’ where every four years a majority of republicans and a majority of unionists would have to vote to stay in the ‘backstop’ arrangements. That is similar to the Good Friday Agreement model.

But Brussels called foul because the blueprint would effectively give the DUP a veto over keeping ties to the EU – undermining the value of the insurance policy.    

It is the new compromise arrangement that seems to have run into a roadblock from the DUP.

Mr Tusk today said the ‘foundations are ready’ and a deal could be accepted tomorrow, but jibed that ‘with our British partners anything is possible’.  

‘It is still undergoing changes and the basic foundations of this agreement are ready and theoretically we could accept a deal tomorrow,’ he said.

‘Yesterday evening I was ready to bet on it… today again certain doubts have appeared from the British side.

‘Everything is going in the right direction, but you will have noticed yourselves that with Brexit and above all with our British partners anything is possible.’

Even if Mr Johnson manages to pull together an agreement and get it through the Commons in the coming days, he is facing the threat of a delay to his ‘do or die’ Halloween deadline for Brexit . 

Both France and Germany have indicated they want months to scrutinise the detail before rubber-stamping an agreement. 

The EU’s leverage has been dramatically increased by a Remainer law that obliges the PM to beg the bloc for an extension until at least January if a deal has not been struck by this Saturday. 

Giving evidence to MPs in Westminster, Mr Barclay said: ‘I can confirm as the Prime Minister has repeatedly set out that firstly the government will comply with the law and secondly it will comply with undertakings given to the court in respect of the law.’ 

Pressed on whether the government would accept a ‘technical’ extension to ratify any last-minute deal, Mr Barclay insisted he was against any delay. 

DUP MP Sammy Wilson gave an insight into the unionists’ objections to the emerging package during the hearing.

He accused the Irish of trying to subvert the painstakingly negotiated mechanisms in the Good Friday Agreement for obtaining consent on controversial issues. 

He demanded of Mr Barclay: ‘What I would like to hear from you is a confirmation that the terms that are set out in the Belfast Agreement, for consent for a controversial issue, or an issue which requires a change in the powers of the assembly or requires legislation, would be the method by which this consent would be sough.

‘Not, as the Irish Government has said, simply by a majority vote, but by a cross-community vote, which is essentially part of the terms of the Belfast Agreement.’

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Jacob Rees-Mogg

Cabinet meeting: Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay and Jacob Rees-Mogg are pictured arriving for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street today 

Liz Truss

Liz Truss

Andrea Leadsom

Andrea Leadsom

Andrea Leadsom and Liz Truss at the Cabinet meeting today: If there is a deal MPs will be asked to approve it, but if not Mr Johnson is expected to stage a vote on whether to delay Brexit or go for No Deal.

Speaking in Ireland this morning, Mr Varadkar suggested the chances of an agreement are reducing. 

‘There is a pathway to a possible deal but there are many issues that still need to be fully resolved, particularly around the consent mechanism and also some issues around customs and VAT,’ he said.

What are the sticking points in the Brexit talks? 

Last week Boris Johnson and Leo Varadkar came up with the principles of a new blueprint that brought Brexit talks back from the dead.

However, while both sides are now entertaining the idea that a deal could be possible, significant sticking points remain. 

Customs checks: Mr Johnson’s proposed way forward is thought to involve Northern Ireland leaving the EU’s customs union along with the rest of the UK. 

However, the bloc’s tariffs would be collected on goods heading to the province from mainland Britain in a so-called ‘customs partnership’ so that they are all EU compliant when they arrive on the island of Ireland.

If those goods then stayed in Northern Ireland – and within the UK – then the business receiving them would be eligible for a rebate on the EU tariff charged.

The EU is concerned about the complexity of the plan, the potential for smuggling, and whether technology exists to implement it.

Problems have also emerged over VAT, thought to be technical issues over how and when it is collected. 

The DUP is also eager to ensure that there is no legal border in the Irish Sea. 

Northern Irish Consent: The two sides are thought to have come up with a democratic consent mechanism for Northern Ireland to give the assembly a say on what should happen with border arrangements in the future. 

However, they have hit problems on the technical feasibility of the proposals amid concerns that the offer made by the UK would effectively give the DUP a veto. 

A compromise is believed to be in the works, but seems to have infuriated the unionists.

The party’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said: ‘UK & EU negotiators, who have ad nauseam pontificated about the need to respect the (Good Friday) Agreement, have no business interfering in the processes for consent as currently set out.’ 

Fears PM’s plan is basically the same as one considered by Theresa May: The customs partnership model which Mr Johnson is believed to have offered the EU is broadly based on proposals previously explored by Mrs May. Those proposals were dismissed at the time as being too difficult to implement. 

There are also concerns that they will effectively mean Northern Ireland being treated differently to the rest of the UK – a red line for the DUP and hardline Brexiteers. 

‘I spoke to the (UK) Prime Minister by phone this morning and I have also been in contact with the European Commission and I do think we are making progress but there are issues yet to be resolved and hopefully that can be done today.

‘But if it’s not, there is still more time. October 31 is still a few weeks away and there is the possibility of an additional summit before that if we need one.’

October 28 has been mooted as a potential date for an emergency summit – just three days before the UK’s current departure. 

In order to take effect, a pact needs to be agreed between the EU council and the British government. The Commons must then vote to approve it and pass legislation, while the European Parliament also has to give endorsement.

Should a deal be reached, a draft text of the agreement could be published today.

But as the drama unfolded overnight, Downing Street was desperately trying to play down expectations of an imminent breakthrough.

One Whitehall insider said: ‘There is progress, but one mis-step and it can all turn to dust.’

Another source told MailOnline the details were still ‘in the sausage machine’. 

There was also some anger at EU officials for trying to ‘bounce’ the UK into more concessions by talking up the prospects of a pact. 

Mr Johnson’s efforts were boosted last night by a warm response from a group of so-called Spartan MPs – Brexiteers who rejected Theresa May’s deal three times.

Mr Johnson knows he must have the majority of members of the 60-strong ERG group on board or his deal has little chance of making it through a vote in the House of Commons. 

ERG chief Mr Baker, a former Brexit minister, said after talks in No10: ‘I am optimistic that it is possible to reach a tolerable deal I am able to vote for.’

He later urged colleagues to ‘trust’ the PM to bring back a deal that respected their red lines. 

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and anti-EU battler Sir Bill Cash MP also sounded positive. 

But deputy chair Mark Francois was more circumspect, saying merely that the meeting with Mr Johnson was ‘interesting’ and there would be ‘further chats’. 

Mr Francois told Sky News today that Eurosceptics had not been told the exact shape of the proposals, but had a ‘number of concerns’.  

Conventional wisdom in Westminster is that if Mr Johnson manages to satisfy the DUP – whose 10 MPs have been propping up the Tory government – most of the ERG will swing behind a deal.

However, the support of the unionist party appears far from certain today. 

After Ms Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds held a 90-minute meeting in Downing Street last night, a DUP spokesman said: ‘It would be fair to indicate gaps remain and further work is required.’

The DUP is demanding that Northern Ireland must leave the EU together with the rest of the UK, saying there cannot be a customs border in the Irish Sea.

Rebel alliance in Brussels: Remainers including Lib Dem Vince Cable, Labour's David Lammy Ex-Tory rebel Dominic Grieve, and Green Caroline Lucas travelled to Brussels today for meetings with European officials

Rebel alliance in Brussels: Remainers including Lib Dem Vince Cable, Labour's David Lammy Ex-Tory rebel Dominic Grieve, and Green Caroline Lucas travelled to Brussels today for meetings with European officials

Rebel alliance in Brussels: Remainers including Lib Dem Vince Cable, Labour’s David Lammy Ex-Tory rebel Dominic Grieve, and Green Caroline Lucas travelled to Brussels today for meetings with European officials

Asked whether she trusted Mr Johnson to protect Northern Ireland’s interests, Mrs Foster said: ‘I don’t trust anyone else in these negotiations. I trust myself.’  

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said he believed a majority of Tory MPs will want to back whatever the PM brings back from Brussels as it is the ‘last play’ to secure Brexit.

But he warned Mr Johnson against dismissing the DUP’s complaints.

‘The test of that will be, of course, the DUP,’ told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. 

‘There will be, quote, a lot of Tory MPs who will take their line from what the DUP do.’ 

He was reminded that a customs divide in the Irish Sea was once described by DUP leader Arlene Foster as a ‘blood red’ line. 

‘Well let’s see when she sees the detail of the deal whether she thinks this is a blood red line or an acceptable compromise,’ Mr Davis said. 

‘I will look at what they say because it will be important, if the DUP says ‘this is intolerable to us’ that will be quite important.’ 

However, senior figures in both the EU and Westminster warned that Mr Johnson will be forced to seek another Brexit delay even if a deal is done this week.

A senior German government official told The Times that political agreement on a deal would not be sufficient ‘to resolve technical issues’ and therefore Brexit would need to be postponed for a third time until January 1.

‘Without a deal this week, Britain will need an extension. With a deal this week, Britain will need an extension,’ a senior EU diplomatic source said.

Tory ‘Spartans’ split over Brexit plan 

Splits have emerged in the Tory Brexiteer ‘Spartans’ over whether to back Boris Johnson’s new plan. 

Mr Johnson knows he must have the majority of members of the 60-strong ERG group on board or his deal has little chance of making it through a vote in the House of Commons. 

The Eurosceptic bloc’s chair Steve Baker, a former Brexit minister, has urged colleagues to ‘trust’ the PM to bring back a deal that respects their red lines. 

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith and anti-EU battler Sir Bill Cash MP also sounded positive. 

But deputy chair Mark Francois was more circumspect, saying merely that the meeting with Mr Johnson was ‘interesting’ and there would be ‘further chats’. 

Mr Francois told Sky News today that Eurosceptics had not been told the exact shape of the proposals, but had a ‘number of concerns’. 

 

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said he believed a majority of Tory MPs will want to back whatever the PM brings back from Brussels as it is the ‘last play’ to secure Brexit.

But he warned Mr Johnson against dismissing the DUP’s complaints.

Last night’s apparent breakthrough came after the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier set a midnight deadline for talks to conclude so details of any agreement could be drawn up for tomorrow’s summit of EU leaders in Brussels. He said: ‘Even if the agreement will be difficult, more and more difficult to be frank, it is still possible.’

A Whitehall source said negotiations would go to the wire, adding: ‘The big moments in the EU have all been done at one minute to midnight. There is no expectation this will be any different.’

Last night, Mr Johnson’s chief negotiator David Frost remained locked in talks inside the EU Commission’s headquarters to reach the midnight deadline. The British team was still pushing for a ‘hybrid’ customs arrangement that would allow the UK to claim Northern Ireland was leaving the EU’s customs jurisdiction under the terms of the Irish backstop designed to avoid a hard border in Ireland.

Brussels sources said the UK had offered major concessions by moving closer to the EU demand for Northern Ireland to stay in the bloc’s customs union and creating a customs border in the Irish Sea.

But there was irritation in Downing Street last night about efforts by the EU to ‘bounce’ Mr Johnson into further concessions by suggesting a deal was all but done. ‘We have made good progress, but there is still a way to go, a source said. ‘It’s going to go through the night – and it could all still fall apart.’

If a deal is struck, MPs could sit on Saturday for the first time since the Falklands War to approve it.

No10 said Parliament would be asked to work ‘around the clock’ for an October 31 Brexit. 

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay seemed to confirm today that Mr Johnson will send a letter requesting a delay on Saturday if necessary

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay seemed to confirm today that Mr Johnson will send a letter requesting a delay on Saturday if necessary

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay seemed to confirm today that Mr Johnson will send a letter requesting a delay on Saturday if necessary

Mr Johnson's Brexit 'sherpa' David Frost (left) and ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow (right) were back at the European Commission HQ for talks this morning

Mr Johnson's Brexit 'sherpa' David Frost (left) and ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow (right) were back at the European Commission HQ for talks this morning

Mr Johnson’s Brexit ‘sherpa’ David Frost (left) and ambassador to the EU Tim Barrow (right) were back at the European Commission HQ for talks this morning

Arlene Foster (pictured leaving Downing Street last night) said the only person she trusted to safeguard the union was herself

Arlene Foster (pictured leaving Downing Street last night) said the only person she trusted to safeguard the union was herself

Arlene Foster (pictured leaving Downing Street last night) said the only person she trusted to safeguard the union was herself

If a deal is not struck, Mr Johnson faces a clash with Parliament and the courts over a controversial law requiring him to seek a Brexit delay until the end of January.

Even if there is an agreement, former justice secretary David Gauke said pro-Remain MPs would insist on another delay to ensure any deal gets full parliamentary scrutiny. 

Mr Gauke, one of 21 former Tory rebels Mr Johnson needs to win back, said he and his colleagues would only back a deal if Mr Johnson agreed to ask for more time.

‘If he gets a deal I would be supportive,’ he said. ‘But I wouldn’t want to be in a position where we vote for a deal on Saturday, something then goes wrong in the next 12 days and we crash out without a deal on October 31.’

Pound dips as Brexit talks hit problems 

The Pound dipped this morning as questions were raised about whether an agreement will emerge

The Pound dipped this morning as questions were raised about whether an agreement will emerge

The Pound dipped this morning as questions were raised about whether an agreement will emerge 

The Pound gave up some of its gains today after frantic negotiations dragged on in Brussels.

New optimism had driven sterling up to its highest level against the US dollar since the summer, at just under 1.28.

Meanwhile, it was around 1.16 versus the euro – rates not seen since May.

But the currency dipped this morning as questions were raised about whether an agreement will emerge.

The Pound was back at just over 1.15 against the euro.

And versus the dollar it was almost a cent lower at around 1.27. 

Stephen Kinnock, one of the Labour moderates whose votes are being targeted by No10, also said there would ‘need to be an extension’ even if a deal is struck this week to push through the complex divorce legislation.

German officials and French President Emmanuel Macron warned that a delay may be needed to iron out details of Mr Johnson’s complex proposal for avoiding a hard border in Ireland.

One senior EU source said: ‘Without a deal this week, Britain will need an extension. With a deal this week, Britain will need an extension.’

Irish premier Leo Varadkar suggested Mr Johnson will only be offered an agreement in principle at the summit.

He said: ‘Indications are that we are making progress. But whether we’ll be able to conclude a revised Withdrawal Agreement, which is an international treaty, for the summit, that’s unclear.’ 

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Commons and a former ERG chair, told LBC: ‘I think the votes are there now for a deal.’

But, in an interview with The Sun, former environment secretary Owen Paterson dubbed it ‘unacceptable’ that Mr Johnson was reportedly preparing to agree to a border down the Irish Sea, creating custom checks on goods travelling between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. 

Facing election meltdown? Jeremy Corbyn in Watford today. He is under increasing pressure form Labour MPs to switch his stance to support a second referendum before an election

Facing election meltdown? Jeremy Corbyn in Watford today. He is under increasing pressure form Labour MPs to switch his stance to support a second referendum before an election

Facing election meltdown? Jeremy Corbyn in Watford today. He is under increasing pressure form Labour MPs to switch his stance to support a second referendum before an election

Dominic Cummings (pictured right arriving in Downing Street today) is said to be masterminding the government's Brexit strategy

Dominic Cummings (pictured right arriving in Downing Street today) is said to be masterminding the government's Brexit strategy

Dominic Cummings (pictured right arriving in Downing Street today) is said to be masterminding the government’s Brexit strategy

While still in office, Mrs May said such an arrangement could never be accepted by a British prime minister.

Mr Paterson said: ‘We await the full details of the new deal to see exactly how they address the objections to the dead Theresa May deal, but dual-tariff systems like this would be, as Priti Patel has said, unacceptable.’ 

The DUP, in a statement after their second audience with the PM in as many days, were also decidedly lukewarm on the mooted proposals.

Theresa May swipes at Boris Johnson over immigration plans 

Theresa May took a veiled swipe at Boris Johnson – the man who succeeded her as Prime Minister after quitting her government over Brexit – in the Commons today. 

Mrs May was making a speech warning the Prime Minister that his plans to introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system are ‘not an answer’ to Britain’s border control problems and could be open to abuse. 

Mr Johnson unveiled draft legislation in the Queen’s Speech this week which would end freedom of movement from the EU to the UK and introduce a new merit-based system from 2021. 

But his predecessor in Downing Street today urged Mr Johnson and the Home Secretary Priti Patel to rethink the proposals.  

She also appeared to launch a thinly veiled attack on her successor’s media strategy as she said that the ‘best headlines and the greatest oratory’ are worth nothing if governments ‘don’t actually practically deliver for people’.

Mrs May’s speech from the backbenches in the House of Commons during the third day of debate on the contents of the Queen’s Speech sparked anger and derision from one senior government source. 

Comparing Mrs May to David Cameron, the source said: ‘Cameron was the future once. Theresa May never was.’ 

‘We respect the fact negotiations are ongoing and therefore cannot give a detailed commentary but it would be fair to indicate gaps remain and further work is required,’ a spokesman said.

Leader Arlene Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds slipped out of the back exit of Downing Street and avoided waiting journalists following the meeting. 

A deal will need to be published, along with a legal text, if the EU27 are to consider ratifying the Withdrawal Agreement at their gathering this week, meaning the pressure is on to sign off on the draft agreement. 

Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that the EU would work ‘until the last minute’ to seal an agreement. 

In a speech to German industry, she added that the UK was going to be ‘another competitor on Europe’s doorstep and that will require the EU even more strongly to be competitive and to take geopolitical responsibility.’ 

Meanwhile, Theresa May took a veiled swipe at Mr Johnson – the man who succeeded her as Prime Minister after quitting her government over Brexit – in the Commons today. 

Mrs May was making a speech warning the Prime Minister that his plans to introduce an Australian-style points-based immigration system are ‘not an answer’ to Britain’s border control problems and could be open to abuse. 

Mr Johnson unveiled draft legislation in the Queen’s Speech this week which would end freedom of movement from the EU to the UK and introduce a new merit-based system from 2021. 

But his predecessor in Downing Street today urged Mr Johnson and the Home Secretary Priti Patel to rethink the proposals.  

She also appeared to launch a thinly veiled attack on her successor’s media strategy as she said that the ‘best headlines and the greatest oratory’ are worth nothing if governments ‘don’t actually practically deliver for people’.

Mrs May’s speech from the backbenches in the House of Commons during the third day of debate on the contents of the Queen’s Speech sparked anger and derision from one senior government source. 

Comparing Mrs May to David Cameron, the source said: ‘Cameron was the future once. Theresa May never was.’ 

What will happen if Boris Johnson fails to secure a Brexit deal with the EU today and how likely is it that the UK’s divorce from Brussels will be delayed? 

Brexit remains on a knife-edge this evening as the EU and UK try to hammer out a last-minute divorce deal ahead of a crunch summit tomorrow. 

European leaders will meet in Brussels in less than 24 hours time for a showdown which has long been targeted as the moment at which a Brexit agreement will be finalised and signed off. 

But with the two sides still locked in talks the get together could end up focusing on whether to delay Brexit beyond the current October 31 deadline. 

If Mr Johnson is able to strike a deal with the bloc today it will put the UK on course for an orderly split from the bloc on Halloween

But if he is unable to reach an agreement today it could trigger the most volatile two weeks in modern British political history. 

Below is a breakdown of how things could play out. 

What happens if Boris Johnson gets a deal today or tomorrow? 

If the Prime Minister and the EU are able today to strike an accord acceptable to both sides then Mr Johnson’s next steps should be relatively straight forward. 

The PM will attend a crunch summit in Brussels tomorrow and on Friday when European leaders will be asked to rubber-stamp the agreement. 

They will almost certainly do so because no one nation will want to stand in the way of Brexit being resolved especially after such a long and arduous path to a deal. 

Assuming the leaders of the EU’s 27 member states sign off the deal the PM will then have to present it to MPs for them to vote on. 

That vote would likely take place on Saturday with the government having kept open the option of asking MPs to work at the weekend. 

If Mr Johnson is able to win a vote on his deal then he will be almost home and dry. 

Boris Johnson, pictured in Downing Street yesterday, is facing a race against time to strike a Brexit deal with the EU

Boris Johnson, pictured in Downing Street yesterday, is facing a race against time to strike a Brexit deal with the EU

Boris Johnson, pictured in Downing Street yesterday, is facing a race against time to strike a Brexit deal with the EU

Leo Varadkar, pictured in Dublin today, said he was 'confident' a deal could be done before October 31 but that there were still numerous hurdles standing in the way

Leo Varadkar, pictured in Dublin today, said he was 'confident' a deal could be done before October 31 but that there were still numerous hurdles standing in the way

Leo Varadkar, pictured in Dublin today, said he was ‘confident’ a deal could be done before October 31 but that there were still numerous hurdles standing in the way

Parliament would then spend the coming week putting in place the legislation needed to actually make Brexit happen on October 31. 

If Mr Johnson has a majority at the first vote on Saturday there is no reason to think that it would evaporate when it comes to voting on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. 

Once Parliament has agreed the deal it will then be up to the European Parliament to do the same. 

Brexit critics have raised the prospect of trying to block the deal but if the European Commission, European Council and British Parliament have all backed it, MEPs will be under immense pressure not to scupper the process. 

Assuming all of those hurdles are cleared in a timely fashion then the UK will leave the EU with a deal on October 31. 

What happens if talks continue but the deal has not been finalised and ratified by all sides by Halloween? 

The EU is believed to be open to a short technical extension beyond October 31 to get the deal over the line.

But Downing Street remains adamant that there must be no Brexit delay in order to preserve Mr Johnson’s ‘do or die’ pledge. 

However, if the two sides are close to a deal and an orderly divorce it is unlikely that the UK would pull the plug. 

Ultimately, Mr Johnson may be able to accept a short delay if that is the price of getting Brexit done in a non-chaotic manner. 

What about Saturday and what about a second referendum?

Remain-backing MPs are expected to try to force a vote on Saturday – assuming Parliament sits – on holding a second referendum. 

The exact terms are not yet clear but it is thought that if there is a deal then they will agree to back it on the grounds that the public are then given a final say on whether to accept it. 

That referendum would then likely pitch the PM’s deal against Remain. 

Mr Johnson will resist any attempt to attach a second referendum to his deal and currently it is unclear whether there is a majority in Parliament in favour of a so-called ‘People’s Vote’. 

If a majority does emerge for a second referendum it will be difficult for the PM to resist given that Remain-backing MPs have repeatedly shown a willingness to seize control of the Brexit process.

What happens if the PM doesn’t get a deal today or tomorrow?   

If the two sides fail to agree terms today or tomorrow then the next 48 hours will become incredibly unpredictable. 

Given that both sides have said progress is being made in the talks it is likely that those efforts would continue in a bid to get an agreement before Halloween. 

But even if the talks do continue beyond today, the immediate focus of the EU and UK will shift to whether there will be a Brexit delay. 

The first question will be whether Mr Johnson will attend the summit tomorrow. If there is no deal to be signed then European leaders will instead discuss pushing back the UK’s departure date. 

The PM is unlikely to want to take part in those discussions because of his opposition to any delay which raises the prospect of him boycotting the summit.  

What would happen on Saturday? 

Regardless of what the EU 27 agrees, the Benn Act will legally require the PM to ask Brussels for an extension if there is no agreement in place by October 19 – this Saturday. 

The government has said it will comply with the rebel law and that the PM will send a letter to the bloc asking for a delay. 

However, Mr Johnson is also expected to make plain that he does not want that delay to be granted, putting the EU in a tricky position.

Number 10 has been locked in talks with the DUP in recent days over whether the unionist party can support a proposed deal. Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds are pictured leaving the Cabinet Office today after a meeting with the PM

Number 10 has been locked in talks with the DUP in recent days over whether the unionist party can support a proposed deal. Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds are pictured leaving the Cabinet Office today after a meeting with the PM

Number 10 has been locked in talks with the DUP in recent days over whether the unionist party can support a proposed deal. Arlene Foster and Nigel Dodds are pictured leaving the Cabinet Office today after a meeting with the PM

One way around writing the letter would be for the PM to ask MPs to vote in favour of a No Deal Brexit on Saturday. 

But with a majority of MPs ardently against a disorderly divorce the PM would almost certainly lose such a vote. 

A more likely outcome would be Remainer MPs forcing a vote on holding a second referendum. 

It is currently unclear whether there is a majority in favour of a second national ballot on Brexit but it is thought the number of pro-People’s Vote MPs is growing.  

If MPs were able to win a vote on holding a referendum they would then have to try to pass the legislation needed to make it happen in the face of fierce government opposition. 

The other alternative is that if there is no deal to discuss then the government could opt to cancel the Saturday sitting. 

What could happen next week?

Assuming that Mr Johnson complies with the Benn Act and asks for a delay and one is granted then next week could see a fresh vote on holding a snap general election. 

Mr Johnson has already tried twice to go to the country early but was thwarted by anti-No Deal MPs. 

Opposition leaders, including Jeremy Corbyn, have said that once No Deal is taken off the table they will support an early election.

That means that Mr Johnson, fresh from having to break his ‘do or die’ Brexit promise, could demand that Parliament finally let him have an election to break the stalemate. 

If MPs say yes then polling day would be at the end of November or the start of December.

One alternative would be for the opposition to bring forward a vote of no confidence to oust Mr Johnson and then allow Remain MPs to try to form a government of national unity.

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