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Johnson's Brexit deal hangs in balance as Labour eyes DUP support

By Frank Prenesti

Date: Monday 21 Oct 2019

(Sharecast News) - UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit deal hung in the balance as the government sought a meaningful vote on Monday and Labour wooed unionist MPs in an attempt to form a blocking majority.
Cabinet ministers were optimistic of a victory in a possible yes or no vote in the Commons, believing they had the support of rebel Tories, eight Brexiteer Labour MPs and a handful of independents.

However, the deal still faced opposition from MPs who feel the prime minister is trying to railroad through a his proposals without proper scrutiny. On Sunday Labour said it was prepared to to talk to the prime minister's former partners in the Democratic Unionist Party and disaffected Tories to force a better deal.

The DUP turned on the government on Saturday and supported an amendment forcing Johnson to again delay Brexit rather than crash out without a deal. The unionists were furious a pledge not to create a customs border down the Irish Sea had been broken and inserted in the deal presented to Brussels last week.

DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson said they supported the so-called Letwin amendment "as the only avenue available to properly scrutinise the deal on offer and attempt to secure changes that could address some of the concerns we have".

"It was a situation that could have been easily avoided had the prime minister kept to words he penned to (European Commission President) Jean-Claude Juncker just a matter of two weeks ago," Wilson said in a statement on Sunday.

"The DUP does not seek a second referendum; merely implementation of the first."

If the government wins on Monday, the legislation is expected to go through scrutiny in parliament, although the indications were that Johnson will try to rush the process.

However, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow may veto the initial "meaningful vote" as he refused to allow one on Saturday after MPs a passed the amendment from former Conservative MP Oliver Letwin to make sure MPs could approve the full Brexit legislation with scrutiny.

The amendment forced Johnson to send an unsigned letter to the EU asking for a three-month extension which European Council President Donald Tusk is considering.

There were concerns at Westminster that Johnson would use a win on the meaningful vote so he could withdraw the extension request. This was supported by the fact that he sent an accompanying letter asking the EU to reject the application because it did not reflect the government's position.

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