Tory MP: Ministers told me key Brexit deal concession on Ireland means nothing

Posted On: 
10th December 2017

A pro-Brexit Conservative MP has revealed he was assured by ministers that the crucial concession Theresa May made to Brussels to clinch her Brexit deal “doesn’t mean anything”.

Peter Bone speaking in the House of Commons
PA Images

Peter Bone said the UK would “never” seek ‘regulatory alignment’ with the EU and suggested the measure was only put in the deal to keep the Irish happy.

It follows claims that Downing Street told pro-Brexit Cabinet ministers Boris Johnson and Michael Gove the phrase was “meaningless” and “doesn’t mean anything in EU law”.

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After all-night talks with Ireland, the EU and DUP boss Arlene Foster - whose 10 MPs prop up the Tory government - the clause allowed Theresa May to seal the exit deal with Brussels on Friday.

The measure was included to square off concerns from Ireland that the 310-mile land border could be hardened and from the DUP that Northern Ireland could be cut adrift from the rest of the UK.

Government sources have already insisted 'full alignment' will not mean the UK staying in the single market and customs union in all but name - but behind the scenes they have reportedly gone further.

Dogged anti-EU campaigner Mr Bone told LBC Radio today he was “climbing up the wall” when he saw the proposal to match EU regulatory outcomes.

“I’ve spoken to ministers and a very senior minister and they say actually it doesn’t mean anything,” he said.

“I’m told that that is just never, ever going to happen.”

it comes after a senior eurosceptic source told the Sunday Telegraph: “The constant way the alignment phrase was described is that this doesn’t mean anything in EU law and therefore is not binding…

“That’s something they have been telling Cabinet ministers like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.”

But Brexit Secretary David Davis suggested the term was crucial in keeping the Irish border fully open, and argued desperate measures would have to be taken in the case of a no-deal scenario.

"I think if we don't get a deal we're going to have to find a way of making sure we keep the frictionless border - as it were an invisible border - in Northern Ireland," he told the BBC's Andrew Marr show today.

"We do it at the moment. Understand something: at the moment there are different tax and levy regimes and excise regimes north and south of the border.

"We manage that without having border posts allotted along the 300 roads there and we will find a way of doing that."