Boris: I’ll find it hard to vote for Rishi’s deal
... as ex-EU boss Juncker says it gives Brussels ‘more authority than it seems... which some in Britain are trying to hide’
BORIS Johnson yesterday said he will ‘find it very difficult’ to back Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal – as a former top Eurocrat claimed the agreement gives Brussels ‘more authority than it seems’.
Mr Johnson indicated he may not vote for the so- called ‘Windsor Framework’ when it comes to Parliament because it does not ‘take back control’.
In his first major intervention since Mr Sunak unveiled his deal on Monday, the former Prime Minister warned that EU law will ‘remain paramount’ and act as a ‘drag anchor’ as Britain tries to make the most of its Brexit freedoms. He said: ‘I’m going to find it very difficult to vote for this myself because I believe we should have done something different.’ Mr Johnson pointed to his own plan to unilaterally withdraw from EU negotiations.
The war of words came as significant pockets of scepticism about the deal appeared in the Tory Party from Brexit heavyweights including Lord Frost, and a substantial number of Mr Sunak’s MPs are now expected to oppose the deal when it goes to a vote in Parliament.
The European Research Group of proBrexit Tory backbenchers and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party are said to be preparing a ‘shopping list’ of demands for changes to the agreement.
‘The more I read, the less impressed I am. I think the shopping list might require a visit to a cash & carry rather than a Tesco Metro,’ an ERG source said.
And bombshell comments from a former top Eurocrat yesterday threatened to turn more people against the deal.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the former president of the European Commission, said the Windsor Framework gives Brussels ‘ more authority than it seems’ which ‘some in Britain are trying to hide’.
Mr Johnson also admitted that he and other Brexiteers ‘haven’t done enough’ to sell the benefits of the UK’s independence from Europe to Leave voters. He said: ‘ They’re particularly dismayed about the small boats across the Channel, but they also didn’t feel the economic change.’
He added: ‘I obviously need to do a bigger and better job of explaining and supporting and defending Brexit.’
Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris was forced into an immediate rebuttal of Mr Johnson’s comments, releasing a statement saying that the Windsor Framework is ‘ better’ than the former PM’s Northern Ireland Protocol Bill.
He said: ‘We have never said this is the perfect solution, but it is a better option than the Protocol Bill, which kept automatic alignment with EU law for red lane trade at Northern Ireland ports, and kept the full jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in international law.
‘As we move forward we will seize every opportunity to diverge from where we are today where it offers benefits to the whole UK.’
The ERG’s ‘star chamber’ of lawyers are combing over the text of the new agreement and are expected to give their verdict in around a fortnight.
Tory MP Peter Bone, an ERG member, said: ‘Some of us are worried that the EU’s version appears to be different to the UK’s. I’m not sure I’ll be able to support it.’
The DUP has fallen into infighting over whether to back the deal. Former leader Peter Robinson said rejecting the deal would put the party on ‘ perilous ground’, but chief whip Sammy Wilson said it was ‘not a great deal’.
He argued that the new ‘ Stormont Brake’ might never be used to block the introduction of future EU laws in the province.
The unionist party’s leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, said he would
take time to consider the details of the package – potentially even until after the local elections in May.
Several heavyweight Brexiteer Tory MPs have backed Mr Sunak’s plan, with former Brexit secretary David Davis, former trade secretary Liam Fox and former Commons leader Andrea Leadsom hailing it as a diplomatic coup.
The Prime Minister claims it will remove all trace of a border in the Irish Sea, bring the Province back under UK tax rules, and give Stormont powers to block new EU rules using a ‘brake’.
The DUP walked out of power-sharing at Stormont last year in protest at the impact of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Winning them over and reinstalling a Government in Northern Ireland is seen as a vital marker of success for the Windsor Framework.