Hardline Brexiteers on brink of BACKING EU trade deal as Boris ‘achieved the unachievable’

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After the Government published the 1,246 page document yesterday morning, the so-called Star Chamber of lawyers advising the European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative MPs started pouring over details to advise whether it could be backed or not. Among the lawyers were eminent QC Martin Howe, the chairman of Lawyers for Britain; veteran Tory Brexiteer MP Sir Bill Cash and former Brexit minister David Jones.

But a senior source in the powerful ERG said that while the deal is not perfect it is still “pretty good” and should get the group’s backing.

The MP said: “Boris [Johnson] has achieved what we were told could not be achieved which is tariff free access to the Single Market without being subject to their rules or the European Court of Justice.

“Looking at this deal you have to wonder why we spent all these years as a member state paying £10 billion a year into the EU when we could have had this access with a trade deal.”

However, there are concerns that there could be bear traps within the deal which means MPs need longer to be properly scrutinised.

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North West Leicestershire MP Andrew Bridgen, who was one of the group of Brexiteer Spartans who held out against Theresa May’s deal, warned: “A treaty with the EU is not just for Christmas.”

He said: “Rather than bounce it through the Commons in one day, both the EU and UK should have a short period of time to analyse it properly before we grant approval and there should be a provisional approval vote followed by full Parliamentary scrutiny and a subsequent confirmatory vote.”

In December last year the Tories swept former Labour heartland seats on a promise of “getting brexit done.”

Rother Valley MP Alex Stafford said: “As a Member of Parliament for a so called Red Wall constituency – one which elected a Conservative MP for the first time in its history – I know how important it is that the deal passes these tests.

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“Voters in the Red Wall lent the Conservative Party their vote because we promised to deliver on Brexit – something that means so much to them. Red Wall voters are now looking to see if the proof is in the (Christmas) pudding. Will it be an M&S luxury one or a cheap foreign imitation?”

One of the sticking points appears to be on Northern Ireland with concern that the Withdrawal Agreement protocol will still apply leaving the province partly under EU jurisdiction.

A source close to UK chief negotiator Lord Frost said: “The Withdrawal Agreement is in place. We are committed to it and obviously it does set up different arrangements, mainly for trading goods and one or two other things in Northern Ireland.

“The people of Northern Ireland can choose whether it continues in 2024. Northern Ireland will be different for a bit by as long as they want it.

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But the fundamentals of what it means to be one country in a huge range of areas are still in place. In particular Northern Ireland benefits from other trade agreements with other countries.”

It is understood that senior DUP figures have said they “can live with the arrangements” in talks with the ERG even if they are unhappy at a border in the Irish Sea.

There was also anger over the compromise on fishing with the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations saying fisheries “were sacrificed”.

Scottish Nationalist First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who opposes Brexit, tried to cash in politically on the claims saying “major promises were broken”.

There was an admission by sources close to Lord Frost that the UK was forced to compromise more on fish than had been hoped but so was the EU with the German fishing industry erupting yesterday.

The senior source noted: “The crucial thing on fisheries policy, although there is a transition at the end of the transition it returns to normal arrangements and we have full control over our waters and our fish. We negotiate as an independent coastal state with the EU and third parties.”

In five and a half years time the UK can ban EU trawlers from entering British waters but the EU can do the same to British fishermen in its waters.

The two sides can also at that point impose tariffs on each other’s fish but this can only be done via international arbitration and be proportionate unlike the deal the EU has with Norway which is constantly threatened with tariffs.

It is understood that French President Emmanuel Macron had promised French fishermen to maintain access to British fishing waters forever and demanded in the European Council meetings that Britain was “subjugated”.

“Macron is looking a bit silly now,” one former UK minister noted last night.

A One Poll survey of 1,013 voters for the Sunday Express has shown that 43 per cent believe the EU has behaved unreasonably in the talks with just 21 per cent thinking it behaved reasonably.

Meanwhile, 34 per cent believed Boris Johnson pursued the right strategy with the EU while 22 per cent thought he was too soft and 24 per cent too inflexible.

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