Boris Johnson has struck a Brexit deal with Brussels in an apparent attempt to bounce the DUP into removing its objections so that Britain can leave the European Union by October 31.
The prime minister urged MPs to back the deal on Saturday but appeared to have greenlighted it without securing the support of the DUP, which has said that it cannot support the new customs arrangements.
Mr Johnson now has 48 hours to try to win over Arlene Foster and her party in a bid to get his deal over the line on Saturday. Otherwise he will dependent on the support of rebel Labour MPs.
Mr Johnson said: “We’ve got a great new deal that takes back control — now parliament should get Brexit done on Saturday so we can move on to other priorities like the cost of living, the NHS, violent crime and our environment.”
Jean Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, said on Twitter: “Where there is a will, there is a deal — we have one! It’s a fair and balanced agreement for the EU and the UK and it is testament to our commitment to find solutions. I recommend that the European Council endorses this deal.”
Earlier this morning, Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, and Nigel Dodds, her deputy, said: “As things stand, we could not support what is being suggested on customs and consent issues, and there is a lack of clarity on VAT.”
The DUP is concerned about the extent to which politicians on both sides in Northern Ireland can veto arrangements that, in effect, place a regulatory and customs border between Northern Ireland and Great Britain. Mrs Foster denied as “nonsense” claims that she had agreed to a new consent mechanism offered by Leo Varadkar, the Irish taoiseach.
It is also concerned about plans to apply EU rates of VAT in Northern Ireland.
The new deal is due to be put before EU leaders at a summit that begins today. If it is approved Mr Johnson will then have to take it to the Commons for a “meaningful vote”.
Senior Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin has suggested his cohort still regards the DUP as “the canary in the coalmine” when it comes to backing a deal.