Johnson may not need DUP votes, says Tory ERG member

Nigel Evans says group of Labour backbenchers could be vital for ratification

Boris Johnson may pass the Brexit deal in the House of Commons if a group of Labour backbenchers support it, a Tory ERG member has said. Photograph: HO/AFP/Getty Images

Boris Johnson may pass the Brexit deal in the House of Commons if a group of Labour backbenchers support it, a Tory ERG member has said. Photograph: HO/AFP/Getty Images

 

A senior Conservative Eurosceptic has suggested that Boris Johnson may not need the votes of the DUP to get his Brexit deal through parliament on Saturday.

Nigel Evans, a member of the European Research Group (ERG), has expressed optimism that the British prime minister will have the numbers to pass the deal despite leading a minority government.

After the news emerged that a deal had been reached, the DUP said its previous statement that it would not support it still remained their position.

Mr Evans suggested that the deal could pass, however, with the support of a number of Labour backbenchers, led by Stephen Kinnock, who have indicated that they are prepared to support it if it protects workers’ rights in the UK.

Mr Evans told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the mood music among the hardline Brexiteers in the Tory Party in the ERG was “completely different to where we were a couple of months ago” and many who previously voted down Teresa May’s deal could vote for this one.

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“You can’t underestimate the colossal achievement of where we are now. Who would have thought when I last chatted to you a few days ago that we are now on the cusp of an agreement, one that actually stands the best chance we ever had of getting something through parliament on Saturday.”

He was challenged by presenter Justin Webb as to whether that meant the ERG had diverged from the DUP in relation to the revised Withdrawal Agreement.

Mr Evans responded by stating that the DUP would not influence his decision to vote in favour of the agreement as negotiated by Boris Johnson with Brussels.

“They [the DUP] are not going to have a veto over whether I support this deal or not. I want to take the DUP with me because they are a group of politicians who we have been incredibly close to and we want to bend over backwards to help them where we can.

“That’s where the conversation that Boris will have with them over the next two days up until Saturday when we have the vote is going to be vitally important.”

However, he also said that there is a “small chunk of Labour MPs from the heartlands that voted Leave” who, if they support the deal, could get it through the House of Commons.

Some 18 Labour MPs, including Mr Kinnock, sent a letter to EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker last week stating that they would be prepared to side with the Tory prime minister in a Commons vote.

They wrote: “If a deal can be brought back to the Commons in the coming weeks that avoids a no-deal Brexit and ensures greater certainty during the UK’s departure, we believe it serves Britain’s national interest to approve it. Our votes will be decisive in determining the approval of that deal.”

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