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PM's new Brexit plan: Does the parliamentary maths add up?

Sky News logo Sky News 02/10/2019 Tom Rayner, political correspondent

Arlene Foster, Jeremy Corbyn, Philip Hammond standing next to a person in a suit and tie: The DUP, Labour and Tory rebels will be the biggest hurdle for Boris Johnson © Getty The DUP, Labour and Tory rebels will be the biggest hurdle for Boris Johnson The initial response from the EU may not be entirely positive, but there is enough diplomatic leeway in the language to conclude Boris Johnson's proposals have not been entirely written off.

That is significant when it comes to what happens in parliament.

If we get to the point where Brussels is prepared to make concessions to the UK government one of the key considerations will be the likelihood of a majority of MPs accepting them.

Video: No checks at or near the border in N Ireland

The immediate reaction of opposition party leaders to the new proposals are resoundingly negative, but both Brussels and Number 10 are aware that what the opposition leaders say is not the most important factor for their assessment.

What next for Brexit? Follow key developments, expert analysis and multiple perspectives as the UK edges closer to leaving the EU

Instead they will be looking to the reactions from three key groupings. The first is the DUP. They refused to vote for the Withdrawal Agreement as negotiated three times by Theresa May, but have indicated they could support a deal along the lines set out by Mr Johnson today.

Jean-Claude Juncker, Michel Barnier are posing for a picture: Boris Johnson will have to get his deal past Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier first © Reuters Boris Johnson will have to get his deal past Jean-Claude Juncker and Michel Barnier first This is significant, not least because it is the first time they have indicated they could accept what would effectively be a regulatory border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Britain. The second group are the Conservative rebels. In this group one could include both the hardline Brexiteers of the European Research Group (ERG), and the no-deal opponents who lost the Conservative whip for voting to try and prevent the UK leaving without an agreement. Many of those who lost the whip, such as former chancellor Philip Hammond, have indicated they would vote for a Brexit deal if one were on the table.

They are focused simply on preventing a no-deal departure. Assuming Brussels were to agree to some variation of what Mr Johnson is proposing, it is plausible that a significant chunk of the 21 MPs who were kicked out of the parliamentary party might vote with the government. The question will be whether they act as a sufficient counter-balance to the hardline Brexiteers who caused such problems for Theresa May by their earlier rebellions.

Nigel Farage et al. posing for the camera: Nigel Farage wants to leave without a deal © Getty Nigel Farage wants to leave without a deal Figures such as Steve Baker, Mark Francois and Andrew Bridgen have made clear they will not be bounced into supporting something which they see as 'Brexit in name only'.

They have often taken a similar stance to that articulated by Nigel Farage and his Brexit Party, for who leaving without a deal has become the only acceptable mode of departure.

Mr Farage has already suggested the new government proposals will not cut it for him, but early signs from the key ERG organiser Steve Baker indicate he could perhaps be more willing to support the approach Mr Johnson is proposing. The final important group to watch are the Labour MPs who want to support a Brexit deal.

Their number is hard to determine, some put it between 15 and 40.

They tend to represent leave-voting areas and several have said publicly they now regret voting down Mrs May's deal and fear going into a general election on a manifesto promising a second referendum, as Labour is now committed to do. But whether they can bring themselves to vote in a way that could save Mr Johnson's political skin is highly questionable.

Following the toxic row in parliament over the prime minister's language, it has never been harder for them to consider voting for a deal against the will of their own party leadership.

Gallery: Brexit timeline (Photo Services)

And yet some have already suggested they might be prepared to do so. Stephen Kinnock, who leads the group of Labour MPs who want a deal, says he would support the proposals if they are accepted by Dublin and Brussels.

This all suggests there is a small but real possibility the numbers might be there for a deal to pass parliament.

If the EU gets to the point of weighing up whether making a concession is worth it, that will be important.

Similarly, if Brussels responds to Mr Johnson's proposals by giving some ground but pushing back in other areas, the prime minister will need to consider whether their counter offer improves or reduces the chances of parliament accepting a reconfigured deal.

One thing is certain, it will be the reaction of these three groups of MPs - as opposed to the opposition leaders - that will be the focus of scrutiny.

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