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Tue, 14 July 2020

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Tory Brexiteers warn Boris Johnson they won't back him unless he keeps no-deal on the table

Tory Brexiteers warn Boris Johnson they won't back him unless he keeps no-deal on the table
3 min read

Tory Brexiteers are warning Boris Johnson they will not back his Brexit deal unless he keeps no-deal on the table.

But a number of rebel ex-Conservative MPs, who the Prime Minister will need to get on side to win Saturday’s vote, say they will not back the deal unless he rules that out.

Mr Johnson’s dilemma emerged as he undertook a last-minute scramble to get the numbers for a majority in the crunch Commons showdown.

With just 287 MPs taking his party’s whip he needs to get all of them on side if he is to have any chance of reaching the magic figure of 320 votes.

But hard-line Eurosceptic members of the ERG have not yet confirmed if they would back the revised proposals.

A total of 28 of them, known as the Brexit ‘Spartans’, failed to back Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement all three times she brought it forward.

One of those, veteran backbencher John Baron, told BBC News he was planning to vote for Mr Johnson’s version though - as it allowed for the possibility of no-deal at the end of December 2020, when the transition person finishes.

He said: “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 that if the trade talks are not successful after we hopefully agree the deal tomorrow here, then we could leave on no-deal terms.

“And the reason that’s important is that, by leaving no deal on the table, it makes a good trade deal in those negotiations up to December 2020 more likely to succeed.”

It is understood that the ERG will finalise its position until legally they have it confirmed that no-deal is a possibility at the end of the transition phase.

Its chair Steve baker said they would not reveal how they will vote until Saturday, tweeting: “Sorry - no news from us before the morning.”

And his deputy Mark Francois told reporters on Friday lunchtime: “I still have some concerns about some of the specifics of the deal.”

Speaking on his way into Number 10 he added: “So I’m going to go and discuss them personally with the Prime Minister.

“He very kindly granted me a meeting. I’ll decide what to do when I’ve had a chance to put some questions to the Prime Minister.”

Even with all the ‘Spartans’ on board the PM will need a sizable number of independent and Labour MPs to back his deal to see it passed.

He is hoping to win the votes of as many of the 21 ex-Tories who lost the whip when they backed the Benn Act last month.

Several of them, including Richard Benyon and Stephen Hammond, have said they will walk through the lobbies with the PM on Saturday.

But sources close to the group said a number of MPs will not do so if the threat of a no-deal Brexit after December 2020 remains.

This means Mr Johnson would need to win over even more Labour members than previously thought, however they now face the threat of being removed as candidates for the party at the next election.