It has been a day of surprises. The last story to break the evening before was that we wouldn’t see a deal agreed that night. Number 10 was sure to get that story out before the Europeans did. Just before seven in the morning, the DUP made it clear that they couldn’t support the deal as it stood. By mid morning we heard that a deal had been agreed, but within minutes it was clear that this headn’t happened with DUP’s blessing. By the afternoon Boris joyously greeted at the Council of Europe like a returning hero.
Things could get even better for him. There is a deal now on the table for Saturday. He has entirely outmanoeuvred those, like Rory Stuart and Amber Rudd, who claimed that it was either impossible to get a deal or that Boris Johnson wasn’t interested in getting a deal. Opponents are now slightly unsure how to criticise the Prime Minister. The new line of attack seems to be that its a worse deal than the previous deal. Of course that is arguably true in the case of the DUP. The new checks at the Irish Sea will be hard to swallow. But as for Labour, they site concerns over the lower demands this agreement places on regulations over the old one. This has now been repeated numerous times by the Shadow Brexit Minister Kier Starmer. But the looser agreement simply means that the government will now have more freedom to move towards less alignment in such areas such as workers rights if it wishes to, not that Britain will suddenly find itself with lower standards of regulations. But regardless of these criticisms, if the deal is passed, there is likely to be an uplift for the economy. And with a transition period set to end in 2020, that uplift will not be accompanied with any disruptions due to changes in the UK-EU trading relationship. This will again look bad for the doom-mongers.
But even if Boris Johnson were to lose the vote in Parliament, Number 10 is likely to be reasonably relaxed. Its difficult to force a referendum unless one is hoisted onto the Withdrawal Agreement, and that now seems less likely to happen on Saturday. People could very well lose patience with those who oppose the deal, seeing them as unnecessarily dragging the process out when a compromise solution is available. Moderate Conservatives who deserted the party for the Liberal Democrats might slowly start drifting back to their traditional shade of blue with the prospect of a deal seeking Boris Johnson.
Agreeing the Withdrawal Agreement has very likely created a win-win situation for Boris Johnson.