Brexit: What happens if the PM gets a deal with the EU?

Jean-Claude Juncker and Boris Johnson Image copyright PA Media

It's still an "if" - in fact, a very big "if".

Even though the EU had to admit today that it had, actually received some "non-papers" from the UK government about how they might conceivably try to solve Brexit's many conundrums, a deal is still miles off, even though not impossible.

A non-paper, for the uninitiated (yes, me too) is, in officialdom, like handing someone a menu saying: "This is what is available and we'd recommend it all, so let us know what you would like to try. "

In this long saga, it's the latest effort from the UK government to prove it really is trying to broker an agreement, and to try to get the other side to engage.

As we've discussed many times before, it's not clear on the other side that anything on the menu will tempt them to the table, but as I wrote last night, that's the stage we are at, described by one official, rather gruesomely, as the "foreplay".

If though, it ever is done, thoughts are turning too in Westminster to how MPs would be persuaded ever to vote for the thing, and to vote for it at speed.

Just as there is a touch of the Brexit-boiling fever on the hardcore of both sides of the debate, there is, in the middle, more Brexit frustration at how much damage the impasse is doing, and probably more MPs who are willing to vote for a deal, maybe any deal, just to get it over with.

And some up-to-date number-crunching by communications agency Cicero suggests that it might just squeak through - have a look here.

A gruesome festival

But there is no way Number 10 can be confident a deal would get through Parliament with any ease in this turbulent environment, especially as MPs have changed the law to make it much harder for the government to take us out of the EU without a formal arrangement in place.

Not surprisingly, therefore, inside government there are conversations going on about how it might be able to maximise its chances, which of course, also would allow Boris Johnson to stick to his Halloween deadline.

First off, there are discussions about getting the deal through at breakneck pace.

The Lords were ready with their sleeping bags for all-night sittings long ago - this could be days and days of Parliament sitting almost non-stop - like a gruesome festival in SW1 where everyone is short of sleep, and no one is allowed to go home until it's done.

An elegant path?

But there are conversations, of course, about other things that might concentrate the mind.

And I'm told there are live discussions between the government and Brussels about ruling out the idea of another delay if there is a deal.

That would hypothetically give MPs only the choice of backing this deal or leaving without one, if in practice the EU had said no to any potential extension. Remember, the law has been changed to force the prime minister to seek an extension if Parliament hasn't passed a deal, but it does not compel the EU to grant it.

By potentially removing the chance of delay, this ploy could make it much more likely that MPs would come to Mr Johnson's wicket, and back it, however reluctantly.

Described as an "elegant path" by some, a way out of this tangle, you can see the appeal for the UK government.

But other sources on the UK and EU side are sceptical - concentrating on whether a deal is possible first, doubtful the EU would make such a political call. It seems an idea that is embryonic.

But don't forget, beyond all else, the prime minister wants to stick to his Halloween deadline, for good or for ill.

We've seen from how Number 10 operates already, there is no predicting what it might be willing to do to make it happen.

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