BORIS Johnson appears to have won the backing of hardline Eurosceptics for his trade deal with the EU.
Ahead of a Commons vote, the European Research Group of MPs has been picking over the 1,200-page document with a ‘star chamber’ of lawyers before deciding whether to support it.
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The trade deal was finally secured on Christmas Eve after four years of bitter wrangling between the UK and EU.
MPs will vote on the deal on December 30 after the Government ordered Parliament to be recalled.
The ERG said it would reconvene its ‘Star Chamber’, that reviewed Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement last year, with veteran Eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash, 80, once again the chairman.
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.
Andrew Bridgen MP
So far no ERG member has spoken out against the deal though there has been some grumbling that only one day has been set aside for the debate.
One told the Daily Mail they had not yet found any “absolute horrors” and another said they were “cautiously optimistic”.
MP Andrew Bridgen 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.”
MPs have demanded that the 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”.
“Whatever you think of this treaty it is going to affect the rest of our lives,” he told the Observer.
“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.”
Mr Johnson is keen to retain the support of the Eurosceptics on his benches who helped him reach No 10.
He already been seeking to smooth the path by insisting it is “right deal” for the country but acknowledged “the devil is in the detail”.
“I truly believe this is the right deal for the UK and the EU,” Mr Johnson told Tory MPs on WhatsApp, the Telegraph reports.
“We have delivered on every one of our manifesto commitments: control of money, borders, laws, fish and all the rest.
“But even more important, I believe we now have a basis for long-term friendship and partnership with the EU as sovereign equals.”
He added that “I know the devil is in the detail” but the deal will survive “ruthless” scrutiny from the “star chamber legal eagles”.
Mark Francois, the chairman of the ERG, and David Jones, the deputy chairman, acknowledged that the deal would be “highly complex” but promised to reach a conclusion as quickly as possible
The timing of the Christmas Eve deal forced politicians and officials in the UK and Brussels to tear up their plans.
MEPs are not expected to approve it until the new year, meaning it will have to apply provisionally until they give it the green light.
The PM received boost as Sir Keir Starmer vowed that Labour would back the deal – meaning it’s likely to sail through the Commons next week.
Source: The Sun