Sunak to unveil Brexit deal gamble in hours with MPs poised to quit

Dominic Raab gives update on Brexit

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A senior Whitehall source close to Brexit talks has told that “a deal is close but not guaranteed”. It comes amid claims that Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, Home Secretary Suella Braverman and Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt are unhappy with the deal with the possibility of resignations from Mr Sunak’s Cabinet joined by other ministers including Northern Ireland minister and leading Brexiteer Steve Baker.

But the source, who is close to Mr Cleverly, disputed that and warned: “Nobody will get everything they want but everybody will get something. The issue will be whether it is enough for people to grudgingly accept it or not.”

In response to claims that there are splits in the Cabinet and Downing Street is “unhappy” with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s pledge to have DUP sign off, the source said: “The Foreign Secretary was asked in the interviews specifically about the DUP, but actually if he had been asked about Sinn Fein or the parcel deliverers or any of the other stakeholders then he would have given the same answer.

“We need all the stakeholders to sign off on this which means nobody will get everything they want but everybody will get something.

“That also includes us (the UK Government), the EU themselves and actually the US (government) who have now got a stake in this.”

Joe Biden’s government has interfered with the process in a bid to force the UK Government to accept EU demands and the US President wants to visit Northern Ireland in April to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement which ushered in peace for Northern Ireland.

But the source close to the talks was adamant: “We cannot give everybody everything on this. There is going to need to be enough for everybody but people are also going to need to be pragmatic.”

Referring to the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteer MPs, the source noted: “Of course, the usual crowd may kick-off. That is always a risk.”

But the source also defended Mr Cleverly’s record on defending the interests of Northern Ireland and its sovereignty in the UK.

They said: “In 2016, James was one of those who signed the letter opposing David Cameron’s hybrid deal for Northern Ireland.

“He was told then that his career was finished but now he is Foreign Secretary and those who people have all gone.

“So James has a record of standing on principle on all this.”

In terms of the current state of the deal, it is understood that a single draft of written text still does not exist.

The insider said: “There are several groups of several pieces of paper being passed around waiting to be pieced together. There is no single text draft or otherwise.”

On timing, the source said that Monday or Tuesday “are probably” the days when a deal will be unveiled but added: “If there is even one more knot to untie, one more small problem they will take time to resolve it rather than rushing into an announcement for the sake of it.

“But expect something this week, probably.”

The source also made it clear that the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill is still live and could still be implemented.

They said: “It is definitely still on the table if we don’t get an agreement. The EU know this and has finally realised we are serious about it.

“At first, they thought it was not serious and the equivalent of bringing a baseball bat to a friendly chat, but they have realised we will push it through if necessary so it has served its purpose to a large degree.

“The first line was always that it would be implemented if we could not get an agreement and that an agreement was the preferred and, let’s be honest, better long-term outcome.

“But as of today, the Bill is still on the table, it has not been withdrawn.”

Earlier, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab suggested on Sky News that the reduction in regulatory checks would involve a “substantial scaling back” of the role of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in the region, which has been a major sticking point for Unionists and Tory Eurosceptics.

But in a shot across the bows for Mr Sunak, ERG chairman Mark Francois told Sky News: “Just putting a couple of intermediate phases in, in a situation where you still end up with the European Court of Justice, is effectively sophistry.

“We’re not stupid; what we want is a situation where EU law is expunged from Northern Ireland so it is treated on the same basis as England, Scotland and Wales.”

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