Mark Francois has said the European Research Group (ERG) will reject the EU-approved Brexit treaty for a fourth time if the prime minister only manages to remove the controversial Irish backstop.
The deputy chairman of the ERG told ITV on Wednesday: “I’m not voting for the withdrawal agreement, and I suspect neither will many of my colleagues.”
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Johnson announced that he would be proroguing parliament before Brexit day, making a no-deal exit on October 31st more likely. However, official government policy is to continue pursuing a renegotiation of the withdrawal treaty with Brussels.
EXCLUSIVE: Deputy Chair of the ERG tells me they will REJECT the PM’s Brexit deal if it simply involves the removal of the backstop. Seems like all routes lead to No Deal. pic.twitter.com/3gzk2ekc2B
— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) August 28, 2019
The Withdrawal Agreement Bill — which includes the payment of a £39 billion divorce bill and a near two-year transition period which keeps the UK aligned with the EU — was voted down three times in the House of Commons under the premiership of Theresa May, the major objection to Leavers in the Commons being the Irish backstop, which could trap the UK permanently in the Customs Union.
However, Brexiteers also object to other aspects of the bill which could keep the UK effectively in the EU — such as the transition period and Article 174 which puts into law the continuing power of the ECJ (European Court of Justice) in the UK — and have said that if Mr Johnson returns with Mrs May’s soft Brexit deal without the backstop, they still will not vote for it.
“There’s too much else wrong with the withdrawal agreement, it’s not just the backstop,” Mr Francois said, adding that when Mr Johnson was “desperate for the ERG to vote for him” in the parliamentary ballot of the leadership election, he “absolutely, adamantly promised us that the withdrawal agreement was dead. He said it several times. If a politician makes an absolute commitment to me, I expect them to keep their word.”
Johnson Faces Brexiteer Backlash over Only Seeking Changes to the Backstop https://t.co/sz7Lo3Jg3k
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) August 28, 2019
This week, media reports that the prime minister could face a rebellion in his own party from the Brexiteers known as the “Spartans” who say that unless he abandons the deal and embraces a full, proper Brexit, the bill will face another defeat. Sources close to the prime minister said: “We know that the ‘Spartans’ are going to accuse us of betrayal at some point.”
However, Mr Francois explained that it was not just the Conservatives in the ERG that voted down the withdrawal agreement three times, but the majority in the House of Commons, predicting that if the prime minister returns an essentially similar bill to the lower house for a fourth time — even without the backstop — “I expect he’d get pretty much the same results. I don’t think it’s going to go through.”