Boris Johnson may be disappointed by the outcome of Saturday’s Brexit vote in the House of Commons, but the prime minister can take some comfort from the fact that there may yet be a majority for his Brexit deal.
According to an analysis by the Financial Times, there could be a majority of five for the Brexit deal — if MPs stick to their voting patterns based on the Letwin amendment, which was passed to avert the prospect of a no-deal exit on October 31. Some 320 MPs appear set to back Mr Johnson’s deal, with 315 opposed — excluding the two tellers from each side.
The amendment, tabled by former Conservative minister Oliver Letwin, essentially turned the meaningful vote into an indicative vote without legal force. Many MPs who backed the Letwin amendment will not support a deal when it returns to the Commons — possibly as soon as Tuesday in the form of a second reading on the withdrawal agreement — but others will.
The whole of the Conservative parliamentary party supported the government in opposing the Letwin amendment, with the exception of one MP who abstained: Caroline Spelman. Tory MPs will be cajoled into supporting Mr Johnson’s deal when it is voted on again, with the threat of being kicked out of the party if they do not.
A reading of Saturday’s vote also suggests that out of the independent Conservatives — Tory MPs who have lost the party whip — 20 are expected to support Mr Johnson’s deal.
Three ex-Conservative MPs are campaigning for a second referendum: Guto Bebb, Dominic Grieve and Justine Greening. Based on the debate in the Commons on Saturday, all of the others are expected to back the government.
Eleven Labour MPs are set to back Mr Johnson’s deal, including six who voted against the Letwin amendment, three who abstained and two others who made it clear they would endorse the Brexit deal when it comes to another vote. The rest of the Parliamentary Labour party are expected to follow the party line and vote against.
There are also four independent MPs who may support the government: former Labour members Ian Austin and Frank Field; former Liberal Democrat Stephen Lloyd; and Sylvia Hermon, an independent unionist MP.
In the Commons debate, Lady Hermon asked twice for reassurances that the deal would not break the Good Friday Agreement and received them from Mr Johnson. She has not stated she will oppose the deal.
As well as the bulk of the Labour party, all Scottish Nationalist, Liberal Democrat and Plaid Cymru MPs are expected to vote against the deal — as well as the sole Green MP. Nine independent parliamentarians are thought to be against.
The Democractic Unionist party, notionally Mr Johnson’s governing partner, made it clear on Saturday they will not co-operate with the government. Mr Johnson personally engaged with the DUP’s leadership to try to persuade them to abstain on the Letwin amendment.
The party declined and its 10 MPs are now expected to vote against the Brexit deal at every turn.
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