A MAJOR split tonight opened up among Tory Eurosceptics over whether to back Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.
Former Cabinet minister Owen Paterson became the first senior MP to denounce the fledgling deal in public.
In a blow for No10, the ex-Northern Ireland Secretary dubbed it “absurd” and “unacceptable” in an interview with The Sun.
Mr Johnson is facing a knife edge vote in the Commons to pass any deal he agrees in Brussels, and must slash the number of Tory rebels to single figures.
When would any other country ever give up part of its territory as part of trade talks?
Owen Paterson MP
But while calling Boris’s talks with Ireland boss Leo Varadkar as “encouraging”, Mr Paterson said: “Concerns remain that the EU will seek to trap Northern Ireland permanently in the EU Customs Union by trying to reheat the failed ideas of customs partnerships or single customs territories that proved so disastrous for Theresa May.
“We await the full details of the new deal to see exactly how they address the objections to the dead Theresa May deal, but dual-tariff systems like this would be, as Priti Patel has said, unacceptable.”
He added: “When would any other country ever give up part of its territory as part of trade talks? It would be particularly absurd for Northern Ireland.
“It would shatter the Belfast Agreement’s Principle of Consent and completely undermine Northern Ireland’s status as an integral part of the UK. We must not go down this route.”
Mr Paterson also signed the “Brexit Pledge” on Tuesday night, a campaign calling on all MPs to agree to leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal.
Former Tory leader Iain Duncan-Smith was also said by other MPs to also be unhappy, and is reported to have “exploded” at senior No10 officials over how the PM has kept almost everyone in the dark over the negotiation.
Sir Bill Cash was also said to be “worried” about how much sovereignty the province would have to surrender to the EU over the plan.
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But ERG chairman Steve Baker struck a positive note after emerging from his briefing in No10, dubbing the proposal “a tolerable deal that I will be able to vote for.”
After addressing a tense, hour-long meeting of the group in the Commons on Tuesday night, Mr Baker added: “I absolutely can rely on Boris Johnson to take us out of the European Union.
“The mood of the Eurosceptics meeting here tonight was that we do, we can and we must trust the PM.”
Ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith is said to have ‘exploded’ at senior No10 officials over the PM’s negotiations process[/caption]
Commons leader and ex-ERG chairman Jacob Rees-Mogg has backed the PM in his efforts to get a Brexit deal[/caption]
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