Boris Johnson fires shot against UK PM Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal

The British Indian leader told the House of Commons that the new pact puts "beyond all doubt that we have now taken back control".

London: Britain’s former premier Boris Johnson on Thursday criticised Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal with the European Union, saying he will find it “very difficult” to vote for it in Parliament.

Sunak has been riding high on a largely positive wave since the British Prime Minister declared a “decisive breakthrough” with the EU in the form of a Windsor Framework, which replaces his former boss’ controversial Northern Ireland Protocol.

The British Indian leader told the House of Commons that the new pact puts “beyond all doubt that we have now taken back control”.

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However, Johnson now a disgruntled backbench Conservative Party MP told a Global Soft Power Summit in London on Thursday that he would find it “very difficult” to vote for the new deal in Parliament.

“I’m conscious I’m not going to be thanked for saying this, but I think it is my job to do so: we must be clear about what is really going on here,” said Johnson.

“This is not about the UK taking back control, and although there are easements this is really a version of the solution that was being offered last year to (former British prime minister) Liz Truss when she was foreign secretary. This is the EU graciously unbending to allow us to do what we want to do in our own country, not by our laws but by theirs,” he said.

“I’m going to find it very difficult to vote for something like this myself because I believe that we should have done something different. No matter how much plaster came off the ceiling in Brussels,” he added.

Johnson said he hopes the new deal works but if it doesn’t, the government should have “the guts” to re-table the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill he had drafted which would allow the UK to unilaterally change parts of the previous Brexit protocol without the EU’s permission. While the EU claims such a move breaches international law, Johnson believes it is the Bill that ultimately “brought the EU to negotiate seriously”.

Sunak had pulled the Bill from Parliament after he agreed a new deal with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Windsor on Monday, following months of intensive talks.

It is hoped the Windsor Framework would break the deadlock over the contentious and unworkable Northern Ireland Protocol, which was designed to prevent a post-Brexit hard border on the island of Ireland between UK territory Northern Ireland and EU member-state Ireland but which effectively created a trade divide.

Now, Sunak is waiting for the response of the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the clear backing of hard Brexiteers within his own Tory party for the new framework. Johnson’s intervention is expected to influence the latter to some extent but there is a general consensus that Sunak is unlikely to face any major rebellion in the ranks over the issue.

After what has been widely seen as a win for his leadership abilities, the Prime Minister has decided to treat his party colleagues to an “away day” in Windsor the site of the new Brexit framework.

According to The Times’ newspaper, Conservative Party MPs have been bussed from London to Windsor on Thursday morning for 24 hours of bonding, teambuilding and strategising.

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