Brexit by the numbers: Does Boris Johnson have what it takes in a parliamentary vote?

Author: Justin Low | Category: News

Let's do some number crunching on the matter

It all boils down to the meaningful vote in parliament tomorrow after Boris Johnson has secured a Brexit deal with European leaders. His deal is pretty much similar to that of Theresa May's except some issues pertaining to Northern Ireland.

You can argue that he sold out the DUP in this deal but it is all a calculated gambit as he tries to work a different angle in order to get a Brexit deal passed in parliament.

Will he succeed though? That remains the real question, so let's dive into that.

What is the difference between now and then?

In essence, he managed to stretch out May's deal to the limit as there will still be no hard Irish border but there will be some customs checks in the UK along the Irish Sea.

However, when it comes to the regulation of goods, Northern Ireland would keep to the rules of the single market.

That's a key sticking point in the Brexit deal with regards to the DUP as the issue of VAT sees EU law being applied to Northern Ireland.

That means Northern Ireland may get the same VAT rates on certain goods as Ireland in order to prevent an unfair advantage on either side of the border.

To put short, the deal sees Northern Ireland be de jure part of the UK customs territory but de facto still be part of the EU customs.

Why does this matter?

It matters because the DUP amounts to 10 votes - and potentially more based on its influence - in parliament and right now, Boris Johnson doesn't have a working majority.

As such, every vote matters to him if he is to have any chance of getting his Brexit deal across the finish line and passing a parliamentary vote.

How do the numbers look like now?

The magic number for a majority is 320, once you account for non-voting MPs.

There are 287 voting Tory MPs, however 28 of them are part of the ERG or "Spartans" i.e. the ones who refused to vote in favour of May's deal.

As things stand, Johnson can't count on all 28 of them switching over but there are signs that the resistance is collapsing as they seek a compromise instead.

I reckon we could see at least 5 of them be fairly sure to back Johnson's deal so that puts him at ~265 votes - 55 short of a majority. So, where will the other votes come from?

There are ~20 Tory rebels who have yet to defect to other parties ever since the Benn Act vote and now Johnson needs them on his side again. Most are loyalists but there is a chance he won't manage to get all of them on board.

But assuming he does get 20 votes there, it puts him at around ~285 votes now - still 35 short of a majority. This is where things start to get a little more tricky.

This is because Johnson will now have to rely on votes from Labour MPs, independents, and other factions. I reckon the total pool here sits somewhere between 25-30 MPs but if you look back to May's crusade, she failed to get more than 5 Labour MPs on her side.

Johnson may be able to fare better or he may not. This is basically a known unknown.

In essence, he has a pool of around 70-80 MPs to win over, of which he needs 61 - assuming he gets all 259 votes from his own party.

My view is that it will go right down to the wire but unless the DUP turns around, he could get about 310-315 votes if all other things go well. That's close but no cigar.

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