Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal backed by MPs – despite rebellion by 23 Tories
The key part of Rishi Sunak’s post-Brexit agreement with the EU has been successfully cleared the Commons, despite a revolt by the DUP and a small group of Tory hardliners.
The vast majority of MPs backed the PM’s compromise deal by backing the so-called “Stormont brake” to veto new EU rules related to the Northern Ireland Protocol.
MPs voted in favour of regulations to implement the Stormont brake by 515 to 29 – a majority of 486. In a relief for Mr Sunak, only 23 Tory MPs are believed to have rebelled, so he did not rely on Labour votes.
The DUP voted against the deal and the European Research Group (ERG) of Tory Brexiteers had “strongly recommended” its members oppose the Windsor deal.
Former Tory leaders Boris Johnson and Liz Truss were among the rebels who voted against the deal struck by Mr Sunak and EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.
In blue-on-blue Brexiteer infighting, Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker attacked Mr Johnson’s opposition and said he risked looking like a “pound shop Nigel Farage”.
Mr Baker – a former senior figure in the ERG – was said to have been kicked out of the Brexiteer group’s WhatsApp group over the insult on Wednesday.
Mr Farage later tweeted: “You give Steve Baker a government job and he stops being a Brexiteer. What a fraud this man is.”
Joking about the row, Johnson ally Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Commons: “I would take that as a great compliment. I would like to be the Woolworths of Nigel Farages.”
Earlier in the Commons, Mr Baker pleaded with DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson to restore powersharing in Belfast. “He knows exactly what he and his colleagues need to do to help me to serve him … and that is of course to restore the devolved institutions.”
ERG chairman Mark Francois said 30 Tory MPs had attended the group’s pre-vote meeting, addressed by leader of the DUP – the unionist which has pulled out of powersharing arrangements at Stormont over their hatred of the protocol.
Mr Francois said the Sunak deal was “rushed and over-sold” and said: “The fact that the DUP has come out very firmly against it means that the deal has not gone far enough.”
The Stormont brake would allow a minority of politicians at the Northern Ireland Assembly to flag concerns about new EU laws in Northern Ireland, a move that could see the UK government veto their introduction.
While the vote on the Stormont brake is only one part of the PM’s agreement with Brussels, it is being read by No 10 as parliament having its say over the entire pact.
In a statement, Mr Johnson claimed Mr Sunak’s arrangements would mean either that Northern Ireland “remained captured by the EU legal order” or the whole of the UK was unable to diverge and take advantage of Brexit. “That is not acceptable,” he said.
Ms Truss is understood to believe the new pact does not “satisfactorily resolve the issues” and “almost fatally impinges” on the UK’s ability to diverge EU regulations.
Urging Tory rebels and DUP to accept the deal is a decent compromise, Northern Ireland secretary Chris Heaton-Harris described the Stormont brake as a “robust change that gives the UK a veto over dynamic alignment with EU rules”.
Mr Francois insisted that the Stormont brake was not a “veto” but a “route to arbitration” with the EU of there is a disagreement over goods rules.
Mr Heaton-Harris – his former ally in the ERG – replied: “One, it is a veto. Two, it is a route to arbitration. And three, it removes any element of the ECJ (European Court of Justice) being relevant in this decision.