Major boost for PM as hardline Brexiteer Tories back his EU trade deal
European Research Group (ERG) says it’s happy post-Brexit agreement ‘preserves UK’s sovereignty’
It comes ahead of vote on deal in House of Commons on Wednesday
Boris Johnson has been given a major boost after a group of hardline Brexiteer Tories backed his EU trade deal.
The European Research Group (ERG), comprised of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs, said they are satisfied the deal “preserves the UK’s sovereignty as a matter of law”.
The ERG’s backing will have no impact on Wednesday’s vote on the agreement in the House of Commons.
It was expected to sail though anyway, with the prime minister already commanding a large majority of Tory MPs and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer having ordered his MPs to back the deal as well.
However, support from the ERG could help Johnson regain some of his authority over Conservatives in parliament, with many having spent the past few months openly rebelling against his coronavirus policies.
Watch: What’s in the Brexit deal and what will change?
On Tuesday, a self-styled “star chamber” of lawyers was assembled by the ERG to examine the 1,246-page text of the agreement.
In a subsequent statement, the ERG said: “Our overall conclusion is that the agreement preserves the UK’s sovereignty as a matter of law and fully respects the norms of international sovereign-to-sovereign treaties.
“The ‘level playing field’ clauses go further than in comparable trade agreements, but their impact on the practical exercise of sovereignty is likely to be limited if addressed by a robust government.
“In any event they do not prevent the UK from changing its laws as it sees fit at a risk of tariff countermeasures, and if those were unacceptable the agreement could be terminated on 12 months’ notice.”
After 11 months of wrangling with the EU following Britain’s departure on 31 January, Johnson announced the UK had agreed a post-Brexit trade deal on Christmas Eve.
He unveiled the deal just seven days before the “transition period”, in which Britain has effectively remained members of the EU, comes to an end.
The package allows for continued tariff-free trade with the EU single market when the transition period expires on Thursday.
Watch: 2 days until end of transition period