Has Boris Johnson achieved the equivalent of scaling Everest, or crawling 500 yards through a sewage tunnel to freedom?

To use two of the metaphors he has appropriated to describe the final stages of the negotiations with the European Union, the Prime Minister has hailed it as an excellent deal” but now faces another mountain to climb to get Parliament’s approval for the agreement. 

The DUP, the Conservative Party’s partners in government since the 2017 election, voted against Theresa May’s deal on all three occasions and have indicated that they remain opposed to the alternative arrangements her successor has negotiated. They have criticised Johnson for being too eager for a deal at any cost”. 

Tory Brexiteers who followed the DUP’s lead have yet to show their hand, but with some of them in government, including Leader of the House Jacob Rees Mogg, the Prime Minister will be hopeful they give him the support they previously withheld. However, parliamentary arithmetic is not on Johnson’s side. 


Without a majority, and with a smaller party following the expulsion of 21 MPs in September, he requires most of them to vote with him – and some such as Sam Gyimah, who has now joined the Liberal Democrats, will not. Even with these on side, he will still require 15 – 20 votes from Labour MPs.

If the agreement is not approved by Parliament, the Prime Minister is obliged to send a letter to Brussels requesting an extension until 31 January 2020. In this tumult, where nothing seems certain apart from the continual roller coaster journey, the politics of whether the EU will grant this extension is the epitome of brinkmanship. 

Jean Claude Juncker, the outgoing president of the European Commission, indicated on Thursday that this was it, that there would be no more delays; however, an extension is granted by the unanimous consent of the leaders of the other 27 countries of the EU, not his gift. If an extension is not granted, those who vote against the deal are paving the way for a no deal exit on 31 October. Many think that, despite the noises from Brussels, an extension would be granted for an election or a referendum on the deal, hence their inclination to try and vote it down. 

With Parliament still split down the middle, with the public at large still divided along similar lines to the 2016 vote, is there a way forward for the UK that brings people together and allows the polarisation of recent years to ease? For some, including Tory Brexiteer Andrew Bridgen and Labour MP Ronnie Campbell, the constituents’ fatigue with Brexit is leading them to probably back the deal. For others, the principles they have stood on for the past three years remain unchanged, and frustration is not an excuse to set aside their concerns. 

Very few will consider this an ideal situation, and I would suggest most people fall into one of four camps. The first are those who want a Brexit deal that represents the cleanest break from the EU, with the least entanglement in EU affairs for as little time as possible. This deal will probably disappoint them. Second, there are those who think a deal led Brexit is crucial and will swallow imperfections to see an agreement that allows the referendum result to be enacted. Third, those who truly want a second vote now that the details are clear. Finally, some who are intractably opposed to Brexit in any form and will use any avenue to frustrate or cancel the process. 

As Christians our hope is not in a deal passing through the House of Commons. Nor is it in seeing an election or referendum to give the public a further say on the Brexit process, or cancelling it altogether. It’s not that these things don’t matter. They really do, and Christians will in good conscience sit in all four of the above camps. So, as this phase of politics reaches a crescendo this weekend, our churches will be home to people who are pleased at the outcome and others disappointed. 

We are called not to fear in the way that the world fears because we believe in a sovereign God who cares passionately about our world but is not fazed by the temporary ups and downs of our current political moment. Our role is not to worry, but to preach Christ crucified and offer a hope for the future that transcends our earthly politics. 

We care about our political system because it affects our life, the life of the community around, and our world. Our faith in Christ calls us to follow Him into the world as His ambassadors and work with Him as His kingdom begins to break into this world. We work for justice because God cares about it, we love our neighbours because we are commanded to, we engage in politics because it is one crucial way how we can bear God’s image to our world. 

Please take some time over the next few days to pray:

  • Pray for the Prime Minister and the government, that they will lead with wisdom and grace.
  • Pray for our MPs and Parliament as a whole as they vote on Saturday.
  • Pray for peace even in times of division and disagreement.
  • Pray for the church to be a countercultural witness to unity in a polarised world.
  • Pray for opportunities to love your neighbour and to make Jesus known. 

More prayer pointers are available here.