Dominic Raab, foreign secretary, has claimed that Boris Johnson is set to bounce back from his Brexit defeat on Saturday by winning what could turn out to be a historic Commons vote on his new exit deal this week.
Mr Raab said the government now had a fragile cross-party coalition of at least 320 MPs willing to back the deal, either in a new “meaningful vote” on Monday or when legislation implementing the deal is put to its second reading vote on Tuesday.
“We appear to have the numbers to get it through,” Mr Raab said on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.
According to an analysis by the Financial Times based on past voting records and public statements, there could be a majority of five for the Brexit deal. Some 320 MPs currently appear set to back Mr Johnson’s deal, with 315 opposed.
Mr Johnson on Saturday suffered another Commons defeat on Brexit when MPs voted for an amendment which delayed approval of his deal until after the Withdrawal Agreement bill had been agreed by parliament.
That meant Mr Johnson could not meet the deadline of October 19, set down under the so-called Benn act, to win Commons support for his deal. He was thus forced by the act to write a letter to the EU seeking a delay to Brexit until January 31 2020.
Mr Johnson’s reluctance to seek the extension was manifested by his decision to send three letters to Brussels late on Saturday night, including a photocopy of the Benn act and one unsigned letter to European Council president Donald Tusk.
Mr Tusk said he was now consulting EU member states on the terms of any extension. David Allen Green, a law and policy columnist for the Financial Times, said Mr Johnson’s failure to sign the letter was “an utter red herring”.
Michael Gove, cabinet office minister, said he believed the government could still meet its objective of leaving the EU on October 31, although that would require Brexit legislation to be enacted at breakneck speed.
“We are going to leave by October 31,” he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge. “We have the means and the ability to do so. I think actually the mood in the country is clear and the prime minister’s determination is absolute.”
Some MPs who backed the Letwin amendment — including Oliver Letwin himself — say they will back Mr Johnson’s deal, now that they are reassured that there was no risk that Britain could accidentally leave the EU without a deal.
If Downing Street’s calculations are correct and Mr Johnson wins the second reading vote on the Withdrawal Agreement bill on Tuesday, his opponents will then seek to amend the legislation.
The key question is whether there is a Commons majority for an amendment attaching a “confirmatory referendum” to any deal to ensure it commands the support of the public.
In previous votes on a second referendum there has never been a Commons majority. Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Labour party would be whipped to back a second vote.