Analysis News

Johnson’s deal has numbers to pass tonight – here’s why he may well come to regret it

Johnson has put deliberate holes in withdrawal agreement to provoke MPs to reject or amend it – and passing it may be best chance for Labour to thwart his plans
Boris Johnson with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, right

Tory PM Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal bill is likely to pass tonight by around 30 votes – in spite of his best efforts to deter MPs by building in two major gaps into it.

Johnson last week promised MPs he would include worker protections in his bill – but these are conspicuous by their absence. The bill also contains a ‘trapdoor’ that would allow the Tories to drop the UK out of the EU at the end of the transition period if no trade deal has been agreed by then.

But – in line with the perversity of the last few years of UK politics – Labour’s best chance of defeating Johnson and stopping his drive to create a ‘bargain basement’ UK outside the EU may well be to pass the bill.

The Commons arithmetic means that the bill should pass tonight by around 330 votes to 300, even without DUP support. However, the vote on the timetable for the bill to be carried out will be extremely tight and may fail by as little as 314-316. Some Labour MPs ready to vote for the bill at this second reading are also happy to vote for a delay until mid-November, to allow for more parliamentary time to scrutinise the bill before it passes third reading.

In spite of Johnson’s bluster about ‘do or die’ and pulling the legislation if just a comma is changed, if his deal passes he has said he will pull it rather than tolerate a delay of ‘months’.

In other words, Johnson will seek a ‘technical extension’ of a handful of weeks as long as he can avoid having to extend until the end of January or beyond. This means that a general election would be off the table for the rest of this year and would be likely to take place in February.

Least worst option

Why might the passing of the bill be the best chance of stopping Johnson’s over-arching plan?

Amendments that remain MPs will try to impose on the bill include two main changes – and both will fail. An amendment to attach a new referendum to the bill will fail by as many as 60 votes, since both the DUP and Labour rebels oppose it, as do many ‘soft’ remainers and leavers – and MPs have consistently voted against any new referendum.

An amendment to include a customs union in the bill will fail by around 40 votes.

But when the EU offers an extension, it has two options – an extension of three months, or a short ‘technical extension’ to allow time for the bill to complete scrutiny and its passage through Parliament. Johnson will wear a technical extension but is likely to follow through on his threat to pull the bill to avoid an extension to 31 January.

Technical extension and a February GE

If the bill passes but Brexit is delayed by only a few weeks, the UK will leave the EU in November – and the earliest a general election can take place is February 2020.

This would mean the UK leaving on a ‘bad Tory deal’ – but with flaws that a Labour government could fix in as little as three weeks by converting what is essentially a ‘Canada plus’ agreement based on a free-trade deal into ‘Norway-minus’ of a customs union, single-market access and worker protections.

But a February general election offers Labour the best landscape it could realistically hope for to stop Johnson in his tracks.

Choosing a battlefield

A December election with the UK still in the EU and northern leave voters frustrated – and of course Johnson-Cummings blaming Labour – would give Johnson the best chance to win a general election and force through whatever plans he and Cummings wish.

But a February election with Brexit done would allow any ‘polling bounce’ for Johnson to subside – and his ‘crack-cocaine billionaires’ Brexit’ would look far less appetising once reality sets in and voters start to look at what kind of country they want to live in, instead of being constantly fed Brexit as the be-all and end-all by the complicit corporate media.

In that landscape, Labour’s ‘Norway minus’ Brexit would look far more attractive – and with ‘Brexit done’, Johnson’s attempts to claim Labour ‘blocked democracy’ would have far less traction.

Labour would have the opportunity, as one senior insider put it, to ‘do a 1945’ – making the general election all about how the UK will look after Brexit, looking forward while the Tories have to look back and drone on about the Brexit already past.

Labour in government could then not only fix Johnson’s bad deal and set the UK on a healthy course in its international relations, but to address all the enormous and worsening miseries that Tory government has inflicted on the UK.

Many inside Labour understand this. One senior insider told the SKWAWKBOX:

Johnson’s Brexit is a bad deal and we will bury it by Easter. But passing it now gives us a chance of Jeremy being PM after a February election.

The EU will then welcome us into a customs union and a strong single market deal. Johnson will seem to win this battle, but not the war.

Such a course is – like anything in politics – not without risk. But the risk in the long term is less than the danger of prolonging the toxic pre-Brexit atmosphere in the hope of preventing it altogether by pinning everything on a referendum that is not going to happen – and would intensify the toxicity if it did.

It may be counter-intuitive for many, but whether you are a leaver or a remainer, if you genuinely want an end to the Tory blight on the UK and a country that can go forward to a better future, you may want to cross your fingers tonight that the numbers work out as anticipated and tomorrow the UK is on a short path out of the EU.

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  1. This is the best way forward, pass the bill let everyone see what the Tories are all about take away the Brexit issue as it stands then what have the Tories got to sling at Labour, nothing but the usual rubbish that’s easily denounced.
    There’s so much to be put right to make ‘everyone’s’ lives better it was always going to have to include the Tory Brexit

      1. Do I want it done the right way hell yes, when the referendum was first announced this mess was always on the cards Brexit under the Tories aided and abetted by the MSM with Tory controlled BBC. We have a HOC as split as the country with the majority of MP’s scared to lose their seats by voting any other way than that which their constituency voted, I hope Jeremy gets what he wants and manages to keep steering this the way we voted at conference but there is an increasing part of me that wants those who think we have so much to gain by crashing out the EU to have the smirks wiped of their faces and then Labour to win a big majority to put the hell that so many are enduring right to an end, I’ll be affected as will my mother we both take medication that is already in short supply, I’m used to being kicked in the teeth being disabled I’ve been harassed left without any security for my future guess I want those who believe the rubbish spouted by the Tories since 2010 to have a dose of the same medicine

  2. It makes sense but… NO!!! The end game, as far as I’m concerned, is not a Labour government. It’s about improving my living standards and the living standards of those I care about (for which only labour is willing to do something about).

    A bad Brexit even if there’s a chance to make it better after is not a risk I’m willing to take!

  3. I am struggling to make sense of the above, both the content and the conclusions.

  4. How can ANY Labour MP support Boris Johnson when there are even Tory MPs who won’t support him? Those who even consider supporting Johnson are sell-outs to the Tories in their constituencies who swung the Leave vote.

    The issue is simple, Corbyn is on one side asking for support and Johnson is on the other, also asking for support. It is inconceivable that even one Labour MP would choose Johnson over Corbyn on an issue as important as this.

    1. I think you have posed the simple dichotomy well.

      ‘Clever politics’ such as that which seeks to find redemption in this result (pace Skwawkbox) always ends up falling flat on its face and then disappearing up its own arse.

      I’ve seen it too many times. And the hard fact is that Labour has just been defeated by Labour MPs, whilst Mr Toad has been elevated by a win. It’s not difficult to work out the optics.

    2. Why not ask Alistair Campbell what he thinks & help John McDonnell (along with Keir Starmer & Emily Thornberry) to stab JC in the back. How long will he ‘Remain’ leader with all these sharp elbows… have to get behind somebody B4 you can stab them in the back? (This obviously doesn’t apply to Jess Phillips).

  5. We appear to be allowing the torys us .Lets bring the election campaign on asap.We are talking ourselves into a corner when we can liberate the people from the Tory regime and win.

  6. ” – and the earliest a general election can take place is February 2020.

    This would mean the UK leaving on a ‘bad Tory deal’ – but with flaws that a Labour government could fix in as little as three weeks…”

    How can we possibly predict that the ‘badness’ of the ‘bad Tory deal’ will be obvious to everybody as early as February – and that Doris won’t slither into another five years on the arse end of the brexit bounce he’s betting the farm on?
    Particularly if he and the BBC bang on about him brilliantly putting one over on the evil but stupid Corbyn by getting the ‘reasonable’ wing of Labour to vote for his dodgy deal?

    Colour me unconvinced.

  7. The Party is in trouble – despite ‘clever’ entrail divination about the future that pretends otherwise.

    Corbyn presented a clear, succinct and rational case for why Mr Toad’s attempts to screw the country should be rejected. Put aside possible amendments and clever footwork – the real fact is that a group of PLP members supported a lying, right wing Tory PM rather than the Party they pretend to.

    At times, the surface appearance is important.

    1. Voted for the Brexit bill at second reading:
      Sir Kevin Barron
      Sarah Champion
      Rosie Cooper
      Jon Cruddas
      Gloria De Piero
      Jim Fitzpatrick
      Caroline Flint
      Mike Hill
      Dan Jarvis
      Emma Lewell-Buck
      John Mann
      Grahame Morris
      Lisa Nandy
      Melanie Onn
      Stephanie Peacock
      Jo Platt
      Ruth Smeeth
      Laura Smith
      Gareth Snell.

      Voted for the programme motion:
      Sir Kevin Barron
      Jim Fitzpatrick
      Caroline Flint
      Kate Hoey
      John Mann

  8. I think any recriminations are very premature. As soon as Boris unexpectedly came back with a deal, we were always going to be between a rock and a a hard place, in the short term. I have been wanting to know for days whether, as Skwawkbox suggests, a Labour Govt. could convert a ‘Canada’ deal to a ‘Norway’ one, should they win an election in the upcoming months. If SB is correct about this then, there is still quite a lot to play for.

    The Canada deal is up to its neck in risk, and Starmer shows no faith in the alternative which, by and large, was written by him. I haven’t given up on the idea of the credible alternative and I’m sorry for repeating this, but it’s virtues from the point of view of leavers have yet to come across; it needs some decent advocacy, not Starmer, to start convincing us and then the country, that it offers them a credible, and honourable alternative – something worth the wait, given all the noise about getting Brexit done. If there continues to be no such advocacy, then the bigger prize may pass us by.

    1. paulo 22/10/2019 at 8:35 pm · · Reply →

      I think any recriminations are very premature.

      I don’t

      The following rebels have yet to face a trigger ballot (the rest are either standing down of have passed their trigger ballot)

      Sarah Champion – Rotherham
      Rosie Cooper – West Lancashire
      Jon Cruddas – Dagenham and Rainham
      Mike Hill – Hartlepool
      Dan Jarvis – Barnsley Central
      Grahame Morris – Easington
      Melanie Onn – Great Grimsby
      Jo Platt – Leigh
      Laura Smith – Crewe and Nantwich

      1. I wasn’t referring to trigger ballots Steve, I was referring to recriminations on this thread.

      2. Preston CLP is holding reselection meetings – my Co-op MP is Mark Hendrick.
        Rebel though? Not sure… 🙂

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