Jakarta, Radar Pagi – Boris Johnson was desperately trying to win over MPs to his Brexit plans last night as Brussels talks went down to the wire.
Downing Street officials met with MPs from all wings of Parliament to convince them to back any potential deal he manages to strike with the EU.
But the Prime Minister faces an uphill struggle to convince his Brexiteer allies after it emerged that the UK had agreed in principle that there would be a customs border down the Irish Sea.
In the midst of her own Parliamentary battles – which saw her deal defeated three times – Theresa May slammed the proposal as one no British PM could accept.
The hardline DUP indicated they would not support the PM’s plan if he had made more concessions to the EU.
DUP leader Arlene Foster and deputy leader Nigel Dodds met with the PM for around 90 minutes on Tuesday Evening.
It’s understood “gaps remain” and further work is required between the DUP and the Government.
One DUP source said: “The problem is that the EU and Republic of Ireland see it as a chance to push for more. We will not be giving any more. Difficult times ahead”.
The EU’s starting point for a deal was thought to have been a rejection of Mr Johnson’s “two borders” plan for Northern Ireland, and a demand the UK switched to a Northern Ireland only backstop instead.
Brussels sources indicated that a draft treaty could be published in London as early as this morning after the UK agreed in principle to there being a customs border in the Irish Sea.
After talks at No 10 last night, senior Tory Brexiteer Steve Baker said he believed a “tolerable” deal he could vote for was in sight.
His hard Brexiteer ERG group of Tory MPs, however, will not pass final judgement until they have seen the legal text of any deal.
Mr Johnson was also reaching out to Labour MPs with Leave seats, whose votes he will need to get any new agreement through Parliament.
No 10 hopes that as many as 30 Labour MPs could help deliver his Brexit plan – but the Mirror understands the number is likely to be substantially lower – with party insiders suggesting fewer then 10.
The Mirror was told the Labour MPs set out their ‘shopping list’ of demands including guarantees on workers’ and consumer rights and a demand for Parliament to have a say on key milestones on the future relationship.
But after the talks the MPs ruled out lending their support if the PM pursued a ‘Singapore-on-Thames’ style post-Brexit Britain as the hard Brexiteers demand.
One Labour MP told the Mirror: “They said they’ll try their best to give us as much as possible. Lame, lame, lame”.
Irish PM Leo Varadkar said that Mr Johnson had told him last week that he was confident he could get a Brexit deal through Parliament.
Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg added yesterday: “I think the votes are now there for a deal. There is just a mood in the country and politicians have to be to some extent sensitive to the national mood that we want to get on with this.”
But Brussels’ chief negotiator Michel Barnier told EU ambassadors yesterday that the PM’s Brexit proposals were not yet good enough.
The top EU official warned that he needed the legal text of the PM’s final proposals by midnight if EU leaders were to approve it at the showdown summit on Thursday.
A senior Brussels insider told the Mirror: “It depends on the PM in the end if he wants to conclude now.”
Diplomatic sources poured cold water on No 10’s hopes of being able to finally strike a deal at the summit – saying it was not the right forum for 11th hour discussions.
They suggested more talks with the UK would be needed next week instead with an emergency summit pencilled in for October 28th.
However, earlier Mr Barnier claimed that it might still possible to reach a deal in time – meaning Mr Johnson could have time to try to get a deal past MPs before October 31.
He said: “Even if an agreement will be difficult, more and more difficult to be frank, it is still possible this week… It it is high time to turn good intentions into a legal text.”
Mr Varadkar said the “initial indications” from talks were that the two sides were making progress and “moving in the right direction”.
But he added that it was “as of now unclear” whether a revised divorce deal would be ready in time for the summit.
French and German government officials said reaching a deal this week was an ambitious target.
They believe that agreeing on technical issues could require another two months of talks – unless the UK makes more concessions.
Under the deal being negotiated, Northern Ireland would not be part of the EU’s customs territory, but the bloc’s full customs code would have to be enforced in the Irish Sea.
EU sources said that customs and a commitment to abide by certain rules to keep a level playing-field remained key sticking points.
Hopes of a breakthrough mounted as the PM delayed yesterday’s Cabinet meeting until this afternoon.
The fresh wave of Brexit optimism pushed the value of the pound higher and boosted shares in UK-focused firms.
Mr Johnson still hopes to put a deal before MPs this Saturday – the first weekend sitting of Parliament since the Falklands.
If he fails to get one then under the Benn Act he has to ask for another Brexit delay – which he could challenge in the courts.
But many expect the PM to reluctantly agree to an extension meaning he would break his “do or die” pledge to leave the EU on October 31.
Rival factions of MPs are plotting how to take control of Parliamentary business if his attempts to get a deal crash and burn.
One group, the rebel alliance of sacked Tory MPs, hope to put a Brexit deal based on Mrs May’s thrice-defeated plan before MPs.
It would include guarantees on rights and standards as well as giving Parliament a say over the UK’s future relationship with the EU, in order to get the backing of Labour MPs with Leave seats.
But any proposal is unlikely to win the backing of the bulk of Labour MPs unless it has a second referendum attached to it. (mirror)