The Independent

Johnson’s comeback hopes dashed by Brexit agreement

‘The fight’s gone out of most of his people,’ says senior Tory


Boris Johnson’s supporters believe his chances of returning as prime minister have been dealt a serious blow after an expected rebellion over Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal failed to materialis­e. In a significan­t move, the influentia­l former Brexit negotiator David

Frost begrudging­ly backed the Windsor Famework, although he said it was a “bitter pill” to swallow.

The prime minister has made it clear that he is not prepared to make changes to the arrangemen­t as he stares down critics in the DUP and on his own back benches. But a number of senior Brexiteers have fallen in behind the new arrangemen­ts while the DUP and members of the Euroscepti­c European Research Group of MPs could take weeks to deliver a final verdict.

Mr Johnson, meanwhile, is yet to break his silence on whether he supports the agreement struck at Windsor. He took part in a Commons debate on energy security on Tuesday but did not mention Brexit.

Since the deal was done, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the former Commons leader and long-time supporter of Mr Johnson, has urged fellow Tory MPs to “calm down and live with the leader we’ve got”. He told ITV: “If we’re a grown-up party, we cannot change leader again between now and an election.”

Some allies of Mr Johnson still believe he could return if May’s local elections are a disaster for the party. Although even staunch Johnsonite­s admit that he will have to get through a parliament­ary investigat­ion into Partygate first.

A senior Tory source told The Guardian they had been approached by those still close to the former prime minister for “informal conversati­ons about the future” but those had never materialis­ed. “The fight’s gone out of most people,” they said. “There’s not a lot of coordinati­on any more.”

Allies of Mr Johnson told The Times he would not oppose Mr Sunak’s deal because it would “look silly” rebelling with only 10 to 15 people. As part of the deal, Mr Sunak ditched Mr Johnson’s flagship bill that would have unilateral­ly ripped up parts of the current Brexit arrangemen­ts with the EU.

Despite this, the ex-PM has thus far made no critical comments about the Windsor Framework, which was unveiled on Monday.

Robert Hayward, a Conservati­ve peer, said the deal was the “first significan­t event” since taking office that had “put the

Johnson supporters heavily on the back foot”. He added: “It hasn’t pushed Johnson away but it has diminished his potential influence.”

One senior Tory MP said Mr Johnson should “put up or shut up” – urging Mr Sunak and the Tory whips’ office to suspend him if he opposes the Windsor deal. “Support the deal or lose the whip,” the Sunak supporter told The Independen­t.

Another senior Tory MP told The Independen­t: “Boris needs to stop playing games and realise this is all over. It’s time to be magnanimou­s and embrace the fact it’s a really good Brexit deal.”

A spokespers­on for Mr Johnson said he was “supporting the government”.

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 ?? (PA) ?? Even l ong - time supporters of the former PM suggest he shou l d stop daydreamin­g about a return to No 10
(PA) Even l ong - time supporters of the former PM suggest he shou l d stop daydreamin­g about a return to No 10

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