Sunak faces agonising wait for Tory Brexiteers’ verdict on new EU deal

Rishi Sunak discusses NI agreement in Parliament

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Rishi Sunak will be kept waiting for at least another week before he knows if he will be facing a major rebellion over his Brexit deal on Northern Ireland. Sources from the European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative Brexiteer MPs have told that they “will not be rushed” on coming to a verdict on the Prime Minister’s flagship deal.

More than 50 MPs and peers attended a meeting of the ERG a day after Mr Sunak unveiled the Windsor Framework with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

They asked the so-called “Star Chamber” of constitutional legal experts chaired by veteran eurosceptic Tory MP Sir William Cash and including ERG deputy chairman David Jones, Martin Howe KC and Barney Reynolds.

Following that tensions were increased when Boris Johnson gave a major speech in London at a conference on international soft power where he said he would not vote for the deal.

ERG members have questioned whether the concessions rung out of the EU will do enough to restore UK sovereignty to Northern Ireland.

There are also fears that the EU is using Northern Ireland as “a Trojan Horse” to impose its rules on the whole of the UK after Brexit.

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Conclusions had been expected this week from the ERG but a senior source has confirmed that they will not now come before next week.

The source said: “The problem is that we are not just talking about a single document. Bill and the others are having to go through the main document and a number of linking documents.

“It is like putting together a complex 3D jigsaw, so it is likely that the conclusions will not be presented to colleagues before next week.

“But we will not be rushed on this by anybody the issues in question are far too important.”

However, the ERG is also waiting for the Northern Irish Democratic Unionists (DUP) to publish its conclusions.

An ERG source said: “We cannot out-unionist the Unionists. It will be very hard for us to disagree if the DUP accept the deal.

“However, if they do not accept it then we have been allies for many years now.

“The key question is on sovereignty and whether Northern Ireland’s place in the UK is protected and respected and whether the EU continues to have jurisdiction.”

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