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Boris Johnson Turns On the Charm to Gather Support for Brexit Deal


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Boris Johnson Turns On the Charm to Gather Support for Brexit Deal

https://www.wsj.com/articles/boris-johnson-turns-on-the-charm-to-win-support-for-brexit-deal-11571398934?mod=hp_lead_pos6

LONDON—British Prime Minister

Boris Johnson

began a last-minute charm offensive in an effort to win a critical Parliamentary vote on his Brexit deal set for Saturday, seeking support from hard line euroskeptic Conservatives and opposition Labour Party lawmakers.

Parliament is due to sit at the weekend for the first time since the 1982 Falklands War to consider a revised Brexit plan agreed by Mr. Johnson and European leaders on Thursday. The deal represents a political victory for the Conservative leader—but it may prove fleeting if he can’t persuade the U.K. legislature to support it.

Mr. Johnson, who leads a minority administration, lacks the numbers to be certain of victory but is hoping that he can persuade enough opposition legislators and current and former Conservative rebels to back him.

It will be an uphill struggle. The ruling Conservatives have 287 voting lawmakers but Mr. Johnson will need 320 to get his deal over the line. Mr. Johnson’s predecessor,

Theresa May,

failed on three occasions to garner enough support for the original withdrawal agreement she negotiated with Brussels.

Deal or No Deal?

Here’s a cheat-sheet of the most likely paths that Brexit could take.

Parliament

votes on deal reached in Brussels

Govt. asks for extension until Jan. 31, 2020

Govt. refuses to ask for extension

Parliament ousts Johnson or he resigns.*

Govt. asks for extension until Jan. 31, 2020

A defeat would likely mean another delay to Brexit, which has already been twice postponed, and a national election in the coming months.

“This is the opportunity to get Brexit done, to turn the page and to allow the country to move forward. That’s why [members of Parliament] on all sides, in my view, should vote for it on Saturday,” Foreign Secretary

Dominic Raab

told the British Broadcasting Corp. Friday.

Mr. Johnson’s task will be made harder by the opposition to his deal of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. Ostensibly Conservative allies, the DUP on Thursday said it won’t support Mr. Johnson’s withdrawal package in Saturday’s vote because it treats Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the U.K. in areas such as customs and tax. The party has 10 lawmakers in the House of Commons, meaning Mr. Johnson will have to work even harder to woo others to get a majority.

One potential pool of votes is the fervently pro-Brexit wing of the Conservatives, often known collectively as the European Research Group. Twenty-eight of their number voted against Mrs. May’s Brexit deal on all three occasions it came before Parliament.

Mr. Johnson’s prospects for winning over this group are mixed. Some, such as

Jacob Rees-Mogg

and

Priti Patel,

were given government jobs by Mr. Johnson and should back the deal. A handful have signaled they will back it. ERG member

Andrea Jenkyns,

for example, tweeted on Thursday that she wants to see the detail but thought Mr. Johnson’s deal better than Mrs. May’s.

The group met on Friday to discuss the deal and will wait until Saturday before deciding whether to back it, according to one lawmaker. Many around the table expressed concern that the DUP wouldn’t endorse the agreement. “We want the entire U.K. to leave the EU after Brexit,” the lawmaker said.

In a joint statement Friday, pro-Brexit groups aligned to the Conservative “euroskeptic” faction urged lawmakers to reject Mr. Johnson’s deal, calling it “defective” and inferior to quitting the EU without any deal at all. Their message may be persuasive for a kernel of ERG members who are similarly drawn to an abrupt “no-deal” split with the bloc.

Mr. Johnson’s charm offensive will also focus on 22 former Conservatives who quit or were kicked out of the party for opposing the prime minister’s Brexit strategy. Many supported Mrs. May’s Brexit deal but clashed with Mr. Johnson over his early enthusiasm for leaving without a deal. Now that he has agreed to a new pact to smooth withdrawal, many are likely to swing behind him. Already, figures from this group such as former health minister

Stephen Hammond

and former digital minister

Margot James

have said they would support the prime minister.

The math means lawmakers from the main opposition Labour Party will be critical if Mr. Johnson is to prevail on Saturday. Six supported Mrs. May’s deal in defiance of party orders.

Mr. Johnson will need to persuade more than twice that number to back his deal to win. The 19 Labour lawmakers who wrote to European Commission President

Jean-Claude Juncker

last week urging a deal, including

Stephen Kinnock

and

Caroline Flint,

are the prime prospects who may back it.

Ronnie Campbell,

a Labour lawmaker who backs Brexit, said that after voting against previous deals he is leaning toward voting for Mr. Johnson’s deal—but doubted that enough Labour lawmakers would back it to ensure the deal passed Parliament.

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“It’s time we got the things settled…I mean three years, it’s just crazy,” he said.

Head to Head

How Boris Johnson’s Brexit agreement differs from Theresa May’s.

Existing U.K.-EU relations continue through transition*

U.K. in EU customs union until the two sides agree on arrangements to ensure a seemless border in Ireland.

N. Ireland out of EU customs union, however customs checks will be done on most trade between the mainland and N. Ireland.

Goods and

food regulation

N. Ireland follows EU regulation; regulatory checks between Great Britain and N. Ireland.

N. Ireland is effectively inside EU regime but system will be implemented by U.K. authorities.

N. Ireland inside EU VAT regime.

N. Ireland legislature decides if it wants to extend at least every four years.

Existing U.K.-EU relations continue through transition*

U.K. in EU customs union until the two sides agree on arrangements to ensure a seemless border in Ireland.

N. Ireland out of EU customs union, however customs checks will be done on most trade between the mainland and N. Ireland.

Goods and

food regulation

N. Ireland follows EU regulation; regulatory checks between Great Britain and N. Ireland.

N. Ireland is effectively inside EU regime but system will be implemented by U.K. authorities.

N. Ireland inside EU VAT regime.

N. Ireland legislature decides if it wants to extend at least every four years.

Existing U.K.-EU relations continue through transition*

U.K. in EU customs union until the two sides agree on arrangements to ensure a seemless border in Ireland.

N. Ireland out of EU customs union, however customs checks will be done on most trade between the mainland and N. Ireland.

Goods and

food regulation

N. Ireland follows EU regulation; regulatory checks between Great Britain and N. Ireland.

N. Ireland is effectively inside EU regime but system will be implemented by U.K. authorities.

N. Ireland inside EU VAT regime.

N. Ireland legislature decides if it wants to extend at least every four years.

How Boris Johnson’s Brexit agreement differs from Theresa May’s.

Existing U.K.-EU relations continue through transition*

N. Ireland out of EU customs union, however customs checks will be done on most trade between the mainland and N. Ireland.

U.K. in EU customs union until the two sides agree on arrangements to ensure a seemless border in Ireland.

Goods and

food regulation

N. Ireland follows EU regulation; regulatory checks between Great Britain and N. Ireland.

N. Ireland is effectively inside EU regime but system will be implemented by U.K. authorities.

N. Ireland inside EU VAT regime.

N. Ireland legislature decides if it wants to extend at least every four years.

Write to Jason Douglas at jason.douglas@wsj.com and Max Colchester at max.colchester@wsj.com

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