Boris Johnson will have a small majority to pass the Brexit deal, thanks in part to 10 rebel Labour MPs, reports in the UK suggest.
The Irish question that has plagued the Brexit negotiations is likely to be answered by a dramatic vote in the House of Commons today.
Some 1,212 days after the UK referendum, prime minister Mr Johnson will put his deal to MPs in a ballot.
If it passes, the UK will leave the EU on October 31 and prepare to create a customs border in the Irish Sea.
Anything less, and the prospect of further delay and a disorderly Brexit will be back on the political agenda.
Speaking in Brussels, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “Plan B is no deal, and we’re all preparing for that, and we’ve all been preparing for that since the referendum, but let’s hope that doesn’t happen.”
He suggested that while Ireland would back another extension, other EU leaders were split on the idea.
French President Emmanuel Macron heaped pressure on London, by saying the divorce needs to happen. “The October 31 date must be respected. I don’t believe new delays should be granted,” he said.
His threat added to one from European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. However, reports suggested Germany’s Angela Merkel believes a delay is inevitable if MPs reject the agreement.
Mr Varadkar made a plea to unionists to get behind the deal yesterday but the DUP will vote against it.
“The queen will still be the queen, the pound will still be the pound, people will still post letters in Royal Mail red letter boxes,” Mr Varadkar said.
And one of the architects of the Irish peace process David Trimble urged the DUP to vote for the Brexit deal.
But the DUP’s Ian Paisley Jnr last night warned there would be “no surrender”.
He added: “I certainly do not need assurances from Leo Varadkar about what it means to be British.”
Mr Johnson was last night focusing his efforts on disgruntled Conservative Party members, hardline Brexiteers and a handful of Labour MPs.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote to his members urging them “to please maintain our shared Labour values of dignity and respect”.
However, he gave no indication the party whip would be removed from MPs who defy his orders in the vote.
Due to the absence of Sinn Féin’s seven MPs, Mr Johnson needs 318 votes in the 650-seat Parliament to get the deal approved.
A ‘Financial Times’ analysis last night suggested 319 MPs could vote for agreement, with 315 against.
Members of the hardline European Research Group of Tory MPs are meeting this morning to decide their position. Mr Johnson is due to stand up at 9.30am to make his case for the deal and a final result is expected some time after 2.30pm.
Speaking last night on ‘ITV News’, Mr Johnson said that the deal “busts” the UK out of the Northern Ireland backstop agreed by Theresa May.
He said: “It busts out of [the] backstop, the previous problem with the deal, the previous deal that kept us locked in the customs union and the single market so, it’s a vast, vast, vast step forward.
“And what it also does, which is good, is it creates a period, a transition period from end of October, end of this month, there’s a period of standstill giving certainty to business and at the end of that it is perfectly correct that we will move to the new arrangements.”