What next in Boris Johnson’s ‘do-or-die’ bid for Brexit?


Boris Johnson is trying to convince EU leaders to get behind his Brexit proposals as the October 31 departure deadline looms ever closer.

Talks will continue after the Prime Minister outlined his plans to replace the Irish backstop on Wednesday.

Here the PA news agency looks at what happens next in the bid to get a deal signed, sealed and delivered.

The letter the PM wrote to Jean-Claude Juncker
The letter the PM wrote to Jean-Claude Juncker

– Negotiations continue

Despite Downing Street sources initially painting the PM’s proposals as a final offer, Number 10 was rowing back on Thursday to describe them as a “basis for discussion”.

Negotiations then will continue between Brussels and London in order to get something that might be acceptable to both sides.

So far changes look inevitable with Mr Johnson’s plan leaving EU leaders “unconvinced” and being rejected by Ireland.

But if sufficient progress is made, intensive talks could enter “the tunnel”, Brussels jargon for secretive and intensive talks among a select group of negotiators.

Today I had two phone calls on #Brexit, first with Dublin then with London.My message to Taoiseach @LeoVaradkar: We stand fully behind Ireland.My message to PM @BorisJohnson: We remain open but still unconvinced.

— Donald Tusk (@eucopresident) October 3, 2019

– Two days in Belgium

Any deal would need to be agreed during the October 17/18 EU summit between EU leaders in Brussels.

If successful, Mr Johnson would be able to bring that back to MPs and ask them to approve it by the October 19 deadline set out in the Benn Act.

– For whom the Benn tolls

That legislation, forced through by opposition MPs and Tory rebels trying to ward off a no-deal, says the PM must request an extension to Article 50 if an agreement is not approved by Parliament.

That request, if approved by the EU, could reset the countdown clock to tick down until January 31.

– Do or die

But Mr Johnson has repeatedly ruled out asking Brussels for that delay under his “do or die” commitment to leave by the current Halloween deadline.

Opponents have threatened another battle in the Supreme Court, where the PM was dealt a historic defeat by judges who found his five-week prorogation of Parliament was unlawful.

Another scenario being discussed is the all important letter to Brussels instead being written by Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill or UK ambassador to the EU Sir Tim Barrow.

This, if accepted by the EU, would allow the PM to save some face by saying he personally did not request the delay, while preventing the UK dropping out without a deal.

– Parliamentary breakthrough

But if Mr Johnson is successful at the summit and brings back a deal, it would next need to be approved by MPs who rejected Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement three times.

Theresa May
Theresa May

The PM, however, has decimated the minority Government backed up by the DUP which he inherited from his predecessor by expelling 21 Tories who rebelled against him.

But, with the prospects of a no-deal terrifying many, and the prospects of no-Brexit terrifying others, he may just succeed where Mrs May failed.

The DUP has signalled its approval and its leader, Arlene Foster, has enthused over Mr Johnson.

Steve Baker, the chairman of the European Research Group of hardline Tory Brexiteers that vehemently opposed Mrs May’s agreement, also suggested he could back a deal.

However, their support could be scuppered by any changes to the proposals needed to get the EU on side.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said none of his MPs could support Mr Johnson’s “reckless deal”, which he said would jeopardise the Good Friday Agreement.

– Another parliament

Though, even if Mr Johnson is successful in the UK, the European Parliament must also give its consent before any deal can be made official.

His current proposals have been flat-out rejected by its Brexit supervisory group, which branded them gravely concerning and said they did not come “even remotely” close to a compromise.