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Boris Johnson voting against Brexit deal could prompt larger rebellion, Conservative MP says

Former prime minister Boris Johnson has said he will vote against the “Stormont brake” aspect of Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland.

The Windsor Framework was agreed by the prime minister and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on 27 February to change the way the Northern Ireland Protocol operates.

The prime minister described the proposals as a “turning point” for Northern Ireland that would end uncertainty in the region.

A key part of the proposals was a new “Stormont brake” which would “safeguard[s] sovereignty for the people of Northern Ireland”.

Mr Sunak said the brake which would allow the Northern Ireland Assembly to stop changes being made to EU goods rules. “If the brake is pulled, the UK Government will have a veto”, the PM said in February. 

A crunch vote on this key part of the legislation will take place on Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement, Boris Johnson said the proposed new arrangements would mean the “whole of the UK” was unable “properly to diverge and take advantage of Brexit”.

“The proposed arrangements would mean either that Northern Ireland remained captured by the EU legal order – and was increasingly divergent from the rest of the UK – or they would mean that the whole of the UK was unable properly to diverge and take advantage of Brexit”, he said.

“That is not acceptable. I will be voting against the proposed arrangements today.

Instead, Mr Johnson recommended the prime minister pursue the Northern Ireland protocol bill which would unilaterally override aspects of NI’s post-Brexit trading arrangements. 

The former PM’s announcement that he will vote against Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal could now prompt more Conservative MPs to oppose the Windsor Framework, a former Cabinet minister has said.

Brexiteer Sir John Redwood told Times Radio: “Well, it may do because he obviously knew a lot about these negotiations as he had to try and rescue the very poor negotiation that Theresa May had conducted.

“But I think more importantly will be the MPs focusing on this issue after many other noises off about other subjects and I hope they are all focusing on it overnight and this morning because the ERG did produce some extremely important legal advice which was published yesterday and I would recommend all MPs read that before voting on it”.

Mr Redwood also denied that Conservative Brexiteers were being “unrealistic” in opposing the Windsor Framework and demanding another way forward.

The senior Conservative MP added: “I am being true to the spirit of the vote that I and many millions of others cast to remove the EU law and EU control from our country and there will be far more going on about it, endless rows about it, if we sign this agreement and if Parliament endorses the agreement.

Asked to put a number on the size of the Conservative rebellion, Mr Redwood disclosed: “Well, I have no idea. The ERG will have a meeting this morning when we will discuss it with each other and see whether we all agree or not”.

On Tuesday a group of Eurosceptic Conservative MPs described the Stormont brake as “practically useless”, but group chair Marc Francois stopped short of saying they will vote against it.

“The ERG doesn’t run a whip”, Mr Redwood added, “There is only one whip for the Conservative Party, the official Conservative whip. On this occasion quite a lot of Conservatives who want Brexit will not be able to follow the Conservative whip.”

Among those set to vote against the Framework is former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith according to The Telegraph. 

The DUP has also announced that they will vote as a block against the deal. 

In a statement, party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said: “Our party officers, the only decision-making mechanism in our party on these matters, met this morning and unanimously agreed that in the context of our ongoing concerns and the need to see further progress secured whilst continuing to seek clarification, change and re-working that our members of Parliament would vote against the draft statutory instrument on Wednesday”.

However, with Labour backing the Windsor Framework agreement Mr Sunak is expected to win the commons division comfortably.

The vote on the framework will likely occur midway through Mr Johnson’s evidence session to the privileged committee on whether he deliberately misled parliament over partygate.