With the DUP definitely against the deal, and a number of the former Tory MPs who lost the whip last month seemingly on board, two groups will be vital.
First are the so-called Spartans, the most hardline of Tory Brexiters. Some of these have already come on board, and others could follow – but with the DUP opposed, this is still a finely balanced decision.
The other group set to be endlessly pestered by Johnson’s team are Labour MPs from leave-voting areas who support a deal, such as Caroline Flint, Stephen Kinnock and others. They face intense Labour pressure to vote against it, but could still potentially be persuaded the vote the other way. These MPs might be more likely to back the deal if it is amended via the Letwin-Benn plan.
Steve Baker: the Tory hard Brexiters’ club, the European Research Group (ERG), is meeting first thing on Saturday. Whichever way Baker, its chair, chooses to vote will be a key indicator for the choice of other Spartans.
Philip Hammond: on the other side of the Tory divide, the former chancellor is prominent among the sizeable group of rebel MPs who lost the whip last month, and could go either way.
Caroline Flint: co-leader of the “MPs for a deal” grouping, Flint is a leading member of the Labour contingent that believes the UK should leave sooner rather than later. If she backs Johnson’s deal, she could take others with her.
Norman Lamb: while the rest of the Liberal Democrats are firmly against the deal, Lamb – who will step down at the next election – has long been much more Brexit-minded than his colleagues. He is believed to still be deciding, and while it will only be one vote, this could be crucial.
Welcome to our live coverage of the vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal. The decision MPs make today could determine whether the UK leaves the EU, as Johnson has promised, on 31 October, or instead faces the prospect of requesting an extension from the European Union – and a possible general election.
Peter Walker has written a guide to see you through the day. Here are the key moments:
- The Commons convenes at 9.30am with a statement from Boris Johnson on the Brexit deal he has negotiated with the EU, followed by questions.
- The actual motion on the deal follows afterwards, to be opened by another minister. It is only when this debate begins that we will know which amendments have been selected for a vote by the Speaker, John Bercow.
- The number of amendments will affect the length of the process, so the key vote could come any time from mid-afternoon to early evening.
- Also on the order paper is the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2) Act – better known as the Benn Act. This is the backbench-created law that would compel Johnson to seek a Brexit extension if his deal is not passed.
- The Lords is also sitting to consider the same two issues.