Rishi Sunak has been warned not to “bounce” MPs into backing a post-Brexit agreement with the EU by rushing a vote in the House of Commons next week.
The prime minister said No 10 was “giving it everything we’ve got” to finalise a deal to fix issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol, with a deal expected to be announced as soon as Monday.
But the DUP looks unlikely to back a compromise with Brussels if it upholds some elements of EU law. The unionist party’s Tory allies in the European Research Group (ERG) have urged Mr Sunak not to rush it through parliament.
Mark Francois, chairman of the ERG, said his group would not back the deal unless EU law is “expunged” in Northern Ireland.
The hardliner said “less of a role” for the European Court of Justice – but one that upholds the court as the ultimate dispute arbiter – was not “good enough”, and insisted “we are not stupid”.
The top Brexiteer told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “If were advising the prime minister, my honest advice to him would be – don’t try to bounce parliament next week because that is likely to go badly wrong.”
Mr Francois said the government would “have to have a bill”, and warned the prime minister not to try avoiding a vote altogether. “For the government to try and bludgeon this through the House of Commons without a vote of any kind would be incredibly unwise,” he added.
Meanwhile, Dominic Raab has said “good news” on a deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol could be delivered within “days, not weeks” and appeared to confirm MPs would get a vote in parliament.
Suggesting there will be a vote on a deal announced within days, the deputy prime minister told the BBC: “MPs will get the chance of expressing themselves. Parliament will have the ability to express itself.”
Mr Raab also suggested that Mr Sunak negotiated a mechanism that will address what the DUP and their allies call the “democratic deficit” in the Northern Ireland Protocol.
He told the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg: “If there are any new rules that would apply in relation to Northern Ireland, it must be right that there is a Northern Irish democratic check on that. That would mark a significant shift in the paradigm.”
Mr Raab suggested there would be a “green lane” for goods to flow unimpeded from Good Britain into Northern Ireland. He also suggested there had been “movement” on the EU determining VAT in the province, and on EU rules for standards when it came to the manufacture of goods in the region.
Senior Labour MP David Lammy made clear Labour would back a deal – but also warned Mr Sunak that should not rush into holding a vote in parliament.
The shadow foreign secretary said: “It is important for all sides to consider that carefully. There should be no rush, I think, on any vote in parliament. People are entitled to look at the small print in detail.”
Hardline Brexiteers have warned that up to 100 Tory MPs could oppose the deal amid warnings of a “new civil war”. But others – including some Tories who backed Brexit – have played down the scale of the rebellion.
One senior Brexiteer told The Independent that the proposed agreement looked “very good”. Mr Sunak will be keen to avoid a rebellion reaching over 40 MPs – which would lead to the damaging humiliation of relying on Labour.
The DUP has issued seven tests that Mr Sunak’s pact will have to meet in order to win its backing, including addressing what it calls the “democratic deficit” of Northern Ireland being subject to EU rules while not having a say on them.
Mr Sunak, speaking to the Sunday Times newspaper, pledged that “anything that we do will tick all of those boxes” in terms of Unionist concerns.
The prime minister also strongly suggested he would ditch the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill – the legislation that would hand the UK unilateral power to rip up the protocol despite warnings of a trade war.
Boris Johnson – accused on trying to bring down Mr Sunak by – has urged Mr Sunak to push on with the protocol bill, saying it would be a “great mistake” to ditch the legislation introduced during his time at No 10.
But Mr Sunak appeared to offer a pointed message to his predecessor over the intervention – saying everyone “should recognise that this is not … about me, this is not about third parties or anyone else”.
The Sunday Times reported that Mr Johnson, called to back what Mr Sunak comes back with in order to appease the White House, replied saying: “F*** the Americans.”
A source close to Mr Johnson told The Independent: “This was a jocular conversation in the chamber that someone evidently misunderstood. That is not the sort of language he would use.”
According to The Sun On Sunday, Mr Sunak will invite cabinet ministers into No 10 on Sunday to brief them on the details of what he has secured so far.