Sputnik: How likely is it that this new deal will be passed on Saturday?
Alex de Ruyter: I think it will be very difficult for Boris Johnson to get this deal through the Parliament, through the House of Commons. I think that the Labour Party in all likelihood will vote against it, by that I mean that I don’t think he’ll get enough support from the few MPs that might cross the floor because they represent leave voting seats. As Jeremy Corbyn has made clear, they feel that it would be too much of an infringement upon environmental standards, or workers rights, or food standards, for the simple reason that the deal, as it currently stands, gives opportunity for the UK to pursue different regulations going forward, and that’s unacceptable to the Labour Party. So, I don’t think that Boris Johnson will get enough support there.
On the other side of the spectrum because it creates a hard border in the Irish sea, in effect it cuts off Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK by de facto membership at the EU customs union, if not de jure for the simple reason, of course, that EU’s red lines were no hard border in Northern Ireland, settlement on the so-called divorce bill, and guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens.
So on two ends of the spectrum there you have the moderates, the pro-Remainers, the Labour Party at it were, in all likelihood voting it down. Johnson, of course, lacks a simple majority in the House of Commons, even with the DUP’s support, in the unlikely event he could secure it now, he still doesn’t have enough numbers, because, of course, 21 Tory MPs were expelled from the Conservative Party, and you have another handful of MPs that form Change UK (Party). So out of the 21 Tory MPs that were expelled, there’s no guarantee that they would vote for this agreement. I suspect his only chance of affecting it through the Parliament would be if progressing it was attached to a confirmatory referendum. Indeed, there was an amendment passed some time ago by two MPs Kyle and Wilson that tried to do that, I think that’s his only chance of getting it through.
Sputnik: If the UK Parliament rejects Johnson's plan what happens next?
Alex de Ruyter: Well, what happens next? I mean, this is the thing though, isn’t it? He was required under the Benn-Burt amendment to effect an agreement with the EU that Parliament would approve by 19 October, hence his plans to have a Saturday’s sitting at the House of Commons, which of course is unprecedented, where he would hope, of course, to have this deal approved. Now, if he doesn’t then my understanding is that he would then be required to seek an extension of EU membership under the provisions of that act. I don’t think he can get around it, I’m not a lawyer, so I say it without caveat, but I don’t think he could evade having to ask for an extension, and therefore the ball would then be back in the court of the other 27 EU heads of states, who might decide to grant an extension or not as it were. But the Benn-Burt Act commits the UK to ask for an extension to at least until 31 January if they cannot secure an agreement from the House of Commons to be withdrawn from the EU before then, before the 19th of course. Now Jean-Claude Juncker has come along and said that he feels that an extension shouldn't be given if Parliament doesn’t agree to the deal, but it’s not Juncker’s call to make, that’s for the other 27 heads of state.
Sputnik: Is it possible that the UK will leave the EU by the end of the month?
Alex de Ruyter: I don’t think it will be. I don’t think Johnson has the numbers in Parliament to effect an approved withdrawal agreement. So, no, I don’t think so. I think they’ll still be in the EU on the 1st of November. And frankly, even in the unlikely event, he did get a withdrawal agreement through the House of Commons for technical, operational and for legal details reasons it would still be required to have a brief extension anyway. So I think that the UK will still be in the EU next month. How much longer after that I’m not sure, but certainly, in those terms, I think for those reasons, I think it’s unlikely that he’ll get the agreement through Parliament, and I think that EU leaders will press for a further extension, that’s what I think.
I think in a sense anything is possible. I do think that if he presents this agreement to Parliament and it is passed on the backs of a referendum, I don’t think Johnson would have a problem with that because he would probably believe that he could win one. But the situation remains fluid obviously.
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