POLITICS
15/10/2019 10:32 BST | Updated 15/10/2019 14:25 BST

Jacob Rees-Mogg Claims 'Votes Are Now There' For Boris Johnson's Brexit Plan

Commons leader suggests ERG and DUP will back proposal in Commons.

Jacob Rees-Mogg has said he believes the “votes are now there” in the Commons to agree a Brexit deal brought back by Boris Johnson.

The Commons leader’s comments suggest hardline Brexiteer Tory MPs in the European Research Group (ERG) are still happy with the prime minister’s plan.

“If a deal is agreed with the EU it will get through the House of Commons because everyone is desperate to finish this,” Rees-Mogg told LBC on Tuesday morning.

Rees-Mogg also said he would be “very surprised” if the DUP was not “onboard” with the proposal. 

“For this to get through the House of Commons the parliamentary arithmetic almost certainly requires the DUP and ERG to be onboard,” he said.

But while the PM might have the votes in the Commons, time is running out to secure an agreement with the EU itself in time for the meeting of European leaders starting in Brussels on Thursday.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said Tuesday morning that achieving a deal was “still possible” this week.

MATT DUNHAM via Getty Images

Arriving at the EU general affairs council in Luxembourg Tuesday morning, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said “detailed conversations are under way, and a deal is still very possible”.

But Finland’s Prime Minister Antti Rinne said there was “no time” for the UK to achieve an agreement in time for the summit.

The latest comments came as negotiators stepped up efforts to work out a way to break the deadlock over the Irish backstop, the contingency measure to prevent a hard border on the island.

A Cabinet briefing on Brexit has been postponed by Johnson as negotiators continue talks to hammer out a new deal ahead of the October 31 deadline.

Tuesday’s planned update to senior ministers was said to have been delayed until Wednesday so Johnson can give more detailed information on efforts to strike a new agreement.

The PM has been under increasing pressure to concede greater ground to Brussels, with reports suggesting the UK has dropped a demand that a deal should include a veto for the Stormont Assembly on customs arrangements.

Irish broadcaster RTE reported that two sources confirmed British negotiators will bring forward an updated plan today to deal with the issue of customs and the Irish border.

The two-day EU summit is crucial, because the PM must get a new deal approved by MPs by Saturday if he is to avoid a clash over asking for a Brexit delay.

The Benn Act passed by MPs opposed to a no deal, including Tory rebels, says Johnson must ask for an extension to Article 50 if MPs do not back a deal by then.

There are fears that a loophole could be used to avoid this, with the PM repeatedly ruling out making the extension request under his “do or die” pledge to get Brexit done by the Halloween deadline.