Tory Eurosceptic ‘Spartans’ are torn over whether to back Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal with some hopeful it could still allow No Deal departure next year
- As of last night, just 12 of the 28 Spartan MPs had publicly backed Boris’ deal
- A senior Eurosceptic predicted that a significant hardcore were likely to prove impossible to persuade
- Mark Francois said he still had ‘some concerns’ about specifics of the agreement
Tory Eurosceptic ‘Spartans’ were torn over whether to back Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal last night – with some seeking assurances that it could still allow a No Deal departure next year.
Members of the European Research Group of Conservative MPs will meet at Westminster this morning to decide whether to support the agreement before today’s crunch vote in the Commons.
As of last night, just 12 of the 28 Spartan MPs had publicly backed Mr Johnson’s deal.
Although none had said they would oppose it, a senior Eurosceptic predicted that a significant hardcore were likely to prove impossible to persuade.
Mark Francois, (pictured) the deputy chairman of the European Research Group, was among those called in to see the Prime Minister yesterday. He said he still had ‘some concerns’ about specifics of the agreement
Mark Francois, the deputy chairman of the European Research Group, was among those called in to see the Prime Minister yesterday. He said he still had ‘some concerns’ about specifics of the agreement.
As of last night, just 12 of the 28 Spartan MPs had publicly backed Mr Johnson’s (pictured) deal
But John Baron, one of 28 ‘Spartan’ MPs who voted against Theresa May’s deal three times, said the terms of the new deal suggested that the UK could still end up with a No Deal Brexit when the transition period finishes in December 2020.
He said: ‘We’re seeking assurances, the devil is in the detail still, but the reason I am inclined to vote for this one is very simple. Theresa May’s backstop could have had us locked into that arrangement indefinitely.
‘Boris Johnson has torn up that backstop, which means if the trade talks are not successful, after we hopefully agree the deal here… we could leave on No Deal terms.’
Remainers leapt on Mr Baron’s statement yesterday, with the People’s Vote campaign for a second referendum claiming it showed that the Government was not sincere about wanting a trade deal.
They suggested hardline Brexiteers were instead preparing for a No Deal Brexit when the transition ended.
The support of the Spartans is critical to the Prime Minister’s hopes of getting the deal through the Commons.
However one senior Eurosceptic was pessimistic about Mr Johnson’s chances yesterday, saying: ‘There will be a hardcore of the hardcore who vote against – probably enough to be fatal.’ Privately, ministers agree that a small number of longstanding Eurosceptics, including the former Cabinet minister Sir John Redwood, will never be persuaded to back the deal.
They fear that others, such as former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, may be swayed to vote against the deal by their relationship with the DUP.
Mr Johnson has privately warned MPs that they will have the whip suspended if they fail to back his deal – the same punishment meted out to 21 Tories who voted with Labour to block No Deal last month.