Boris Johnson says he will find it ‘very difficult’ to vote for Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal
Boris Johnson has said he will “find it very difficult to vote for” Rishi Sunak’s deal on post-Brexit trading arrangements in Northern Ireland.
The former Prime Minister has raised concerns about Sunak’s Windsor Framework which aims to resolve the power-sharing deadlock in Stormont.
In a Westminster speech today, he said: “I’m going to find it very difficult to vote for something like this myself, because I believed we should’ve done something very different.
“I hope that it will work and I also hope that if it doesn’t work we will have the guts to employ that (Northern Ireland Protocol) Bill again, because I have no doubt at all that that is what brought the EU to negotiate seriously.”
His remarks come as Conservative MPs attend an away day in Windsor with the Prime Minister, party chairman Greg Hands and longstanding elections adviser Isaac Levido.
The MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, who stepped down as prime minister this summer, ahead of Liz Truss’ short-lived premiership, gave a keynote address at the Global Soft Power summit.
During his speech, Johnson raised numerous concerns about the Windsor agreement, announced on Monday by Sunak and EU Commission president Ursula von der Lyen.
He added: “I’m conscious I’m not going to be thanked for saying this, but I think it is my job to do so: we must be clear about what is really going on here.
“This is not about the UK taking back control, and although there are easements this is really a version of the solution that was being offered last year to Liz Truss when she was foreign secretary.
“This is the EU graciously unbending to allow us to do what we want to do in our own country, not by our laws but by theirs.”
Johnson also conceded he made mistakes in signing his Northern Ireland Protocol that caused the DUP to walk out of power-sharing because of trade barriers in the Irish Sea.
“I thought those checks would not be onerous since there isn’t that much stuff that falls into that category; most of the goods stay in Northern Ireland,” he said.
“It’s all my fault, I fully accept responsibility.”
Johnson’s remarks come after widespread rumours of a backbench Tory rebellion over the deal, amid criticism from hardline Eurosceptic outfit the European Research Group (ERG).
However, following pressure from political parties in Northern Ireland who have urged the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to accept Sunak’s deal and restore power-sharing, talk of a mutiny at a parliamentary vote on the framework has ebbed away.
Allies of Johnson, according to the Times, indicated he did not want to be an “outlier” on a vote, with government now reportedly confident it will have enough support to pass the deal.
Asked directly whether he would vote for the deal in a Q&A session following his speech, the ex-PM appeared to indicate he would not stand in Sunak’s way.
“It is clear now that people want to move on,” he told host David Haigh, chief executive of Brand Finance, who are behind the summit.
“They want to do a deal – I’ve got to be realistic about that.”
ERG members and the DUP leadership are expected to give their verdicts on the deal in the coming weeks, with a Commons vote also anticipated on the agreement.