Hardliners fall in behind Brexit deal: Boris Johnson appears to win support of Tory Eurosceptics for his EU trade agreement
- PM rang members of ERG to argue it meets demands on return of sovereignty
- The ERG has convened team to go through the 1,200-page document line by line
- Not one of the group’s MPs has gone public with any concerns about the deal
Boris Johnson looks to have won his battle to persuade hardline Brexiteers in his party to back his EU trade deal in the Commons this week.
The Prime Minister and top adviser Oliver Lewis have been ringing senior members of the pro-Brexit European Research Group to argue that the agreement meets their demands on the return of sovereignty.
The ERG has convened a self-styled ‘star chamber’ legal team, with veteran Eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash as chairman, to go through the 1,200-page document line by line.
And so far, not one of the group’s MPs has gone public with any concerns about the deal – although there is criticism that only one day of Commons debate has been set aside.
Boris Johnson looks to have won his battle to persuade hardline Brexiteers in his party to back his EU trade deal in the Commons this week. He is pictured at his desk just before the final agreement
Ministers expect most of them to fall in behind the agreement on Wednesday when it is voted on, with only about ten Tory rebels voting against.
One ERG member said they had not yet found any ‘absolute horrors’, while another said they were ‘cautiously optimistic’. Andrew Bridgen, Conservative MP and a member of the ERG, said: ‘If you had offered me what we’ve got here back in 2016 I wouldn’t have snapped your hand off, I’d have had your arms and your legs as well.’
Both the Commons and the Lords will sit for a single day to pass the Future Relationship Bill implementing the Government’s free trade deal.
More than three quarters of MPs are expected to dial in remotely after the Commons Speaker urged them to stay at home and said those present in person will not be given priority to speak.
The Prime Minister and top adviser Oliver Lewis have been ringing senior members of the pro-Brexit European Research Group to argue that the agreement meets their demands on the return of sovereignty
Andrew Bridgen, Conservative MP (pictured) and a member of the ERG, said: ‘If you had offered me what we’ve got here back in 2016 I wouldn’t have snapped your hand off, I’d have had your arms and your legs as well’
The deal is certain to pass because Sir Keir Starmer has announced that Labour MPs will be whipped to support it. But the Labour leader is set for a rebellion of around 20 MPs and the possibility of resignations of a few junior shadow ministers. As expected, the Scottish National Party and the Liberal Democrats will vote against the deal.
Although the Prime Minister does not need the support of the ERG to get the agreement through the Commons, he wants as many as possible to support it to show that the decades-long Tory wars over Europe are over.
But in a sign the conflict may still rumble on, last night Tory grandee Lord Heseltine called on MPs and peers to abstain when it comes to the vote, warning the deal will inflict ‘lasting damage’ on the UK. However, the former deputy prime minister said that he would not vote against because the consequences of a No Deal would be even graver.
Some ERG members have accused the Prime Minister of showing ‘contempt’ for Parliament by confining discussion of the agreement to just one day. They demanded that a binding vote be delayed for three weeks to allow full scrutiny of the treaty. David Davis, former Brexit secretary, said a one-day debate was ‘too fast’.
He told the Observer: ‘Whatever you think of this treaty it is going to affect the rest of our lives.
‘It is a treaty that is going to bring to an end an argument that has dominated the first half of our lives, and the outcome is going to be for the rest of our lives, and it does require more than just a rubber stamp.’
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith said the ERG’s lawyers were ‘far better than anything the Government has got’.
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith (pictured) said the ERG’s lawyers were ‘far better than anything the Government has got’
He said: ‘The Government legal service make so many mistakes in European treaties. Time and again the EU tricks them. We will do them a favour by exposing what they have got rather than what they say they have got.’
Criticising the short debate, he added: ‘We had 25 days of debate on the Maastricht Treaty’ – the founding treaty for the EU.
The most recent data indicates that 75 per cent of MPs have registered for proxy votes, meaning that they will be taking part in the debate online rather than travelling across the country.
Stuart Andrew, the Tory deputy chief whip, holds 269 proxy votes for Conservative MPs.
In a letter to all MPs, Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle wrote: ‘I would strongly urge you not to physically come to Westminster to participate in any business unless absolutely necessary.’
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