Tory Brexiteers fire warning shot as Sunak tries to call rebels’ bluff

Tory Brexiteers have fired a warning shot as Rishi Sunak looks braced to call rebels’ bluff over his controversial Brexit deal. A source close to the powerful European Research Group, a group of nearly 100 backbench Tory Brexiteers, warned that Mr Sunak was wrong to think the group is “all bark and no bite”.

This comes as Mr Sunak desperately attempts to renegotiate the Northern Ireland Protocol in order to solve ongoing issues with the controversial legislation.

The Prime Minister has been warned that he may face resignations over the deal, as right-wing factions of the Tory party are concerned the deal could give too much away to the EU.

But it appears he will attempt to call Tory rebels’ bluff, with a source close to the PM dismissing the talk of resignations as “flippant remarks” from junior ministers.

One minister told The i they were not aware of colleagues threatening to quit, while another set they were simply veiled threats to keep Mr Sunak on his toes.

The ERG met at 6pm last night with unionist leader Jeffrey Donaldson to urgently discuss the proposed deal.

While Mr Donaldson, speaking after the meeting, heralded Mr Sunak for having made “progress” with the deal, he admitted the Government has “a long way to go”.

He confirmed a major sticking point for the DUP is that goods produced in Northern Ireland that are destined for the internal market must be governed by UK law.

But firing a warning shot after the meeting – which appeared to be conciliatory in tone – an ERG source told the Daily Express: “No10 thought that the DUP and ERG would be all bark and no bite. How wrong they were!”

ERG leader Mark Francois said MPs would “like to find a way through”.

However, he noted that neither the ERG nor the DUP had seen any details of the deal, something which is understood to have frustrated members of the Tory party.

Mr Sunak has been locked in talks with the EU in a last ditch attempt to solve ongoing issues with the legislation.

Mr Francois said: “Across the parliamentary party we all want to see a solution to this. We would all like to find a way through.

“Any MP worth their salt want a to see a deal first if they’re going to vote on it.

“We would be very keen to read a legal text. When we’ve had a chance to do that we can give you an opinion too.”

DUP leader Mr Donaldson said: “We do have the protocol bill still with us in parliament, so what happens in these negotiations has implications for that.

“I must say I am delighted with the level of support we have received. There is a very clear understanding about the issues that need to be addressed and resolved”

“I want to commend the PM for the work he has done. Progress has been made but there is still a long way to go. We will work with the government to ensure we get the right outcome. An outcome that meets our seven tests.

“I have not seen any texts. I can’t say to you tonight that this is agreed or that is agreed.

“We’re not driven by any timetable. We want to get this right

“We are continuing to engage with the government

“I had people tell me a year ago that the EU would never renegotiate the protocol. And here we are. I don’t subscribe to the never ever view. There is the potential to resolve this issue.”

Former Chief Secretary to the Treasury Simon Clarke said “there is still a long way to go,” adding that a deal is a “substantial risk” without further progress on “something the DUP can support”.

He stated that the Northern Ireland Protocol legislation – which would allow the Government to torpedo the deal altogether – is “preferable”.


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