Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has secured a historic victory after his Brexit legislation passed through the House of Commons by 515 votes to 29, but 70 Tory MPs did not support the deal.
Rishi Sunak has been handed a victory, as his Brexit deal passed through the House of Commons by 515 votes to 29. But he still faced a significant rebellion from his own MPs, as 70 MPs did not vote for the deal. 22 Conservative MPs voted down the statutory instrument, while 48 abstained. This amounts to 15 percent of Tory MPs. 6 DUP MPs and one independent MP – Andrew Bridgen – also voted against the legislation.
A source inside the powerful European Research Group warned that viewing this as a victory for Mr Sunak is “bonkers”, given the number of abstentions.
This morning, ERG Chairman Mark Francois told reporters that senior officers recommended that the group should vote against the Statutory Instrument. He said no one present spoke out against that conclusion.
Mr Sunak was expected to have to rely on opposition votes in order to get the deal through.
Fears of a rebellion were exacerbated when Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Sir Iain Duncan Smith – three former Conservative leaders – as well as former Home Secretary Priti Patel all announced this morning that they would vote against the deal.
Reacting to the outcome of the vote, a senior member of the ERG said: “It was 21 Tory MPs but keep an eye on how many of our colleagues abstained.”
A Red Wall MP said: “In the end now it is about uniting and winning the next election. True the deal stinks but if we win the next election we can change it again. We can’t do anything if we lose.”
Meanwhile, former home secretary Priti Patel told the Daily Express: “It’s the first time I’ve voted against the government since [Theresa May in] 2019. It’s an issue of principle though.”
A veteran Brexiteer added: “Some of the younger MPs from the 2019 intake who were not here for the fight after the referendum lost their nerves and abstained instead.”
Speaking this morning about the deal, Mr Johnson said the new arrangements would mean the “whole of the UK” was unable “properly to diverge and take advantage of Brexit“.
Announcing her opposition to the deal, a spokesman for Ms Truss said: “After examining the detail of the Stormont Brake and Windsor Framework, Liz has decided to vote against the Statutory Instrument this afternoon.”
Meanwhile, Ms Patel told Express.co.uk: “The Stormont Brake does not change the fact that there are areas of law and decision-making where the democratic will of Northern Ireland is fettered by the EU.
“Northern Ireland is not able to reject EU Laws that are already in place and where current laws are acting against the interests of Northern Ireland and the United Kingdon, the Northern Ireland Assembly continues to be powerless to act.”
Debating the legislation earlier today, Brexiteer William Cash warned the EU could invoke “retaliatory measures” if the UK tries to use the “veto” included in Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal.
He criticised the Stormont Brake, saying he is “not impressed”. MPs debated the statutory instrument this afternoon, ahead of a vote at 2.30pm.
Speaking in the House of Commons, William Cash said: “Pre-Brexit single market legislation continues in Northern Ireland.
“The Northern Ireland protocol Bill dealt with the unacceptable imposition of EU laws, but this bill is now being disposed of to my great concern – even though it was passed in this house by a majority of 72 on third reading, and most of the honourable members who are here now on our side of the house voted for it.
“The Windsor Framework does not do away with EU law as such in the customs regime because, indeed, if the UK purports to use its veto in relation to the Stormont Brake, the EU will be able to get around this and may invoke retaliatory measures.”