'Eurosceptic Conservative MPs will still vote down the government’s Brexit deal even if Theresa May negotiates an exit clause from the Irish backstop, the former minister Steve Baker has insisted.
May’s cabinet has been locked in a bitter internal wrangle about whether, and how, the government could extricate itself from the backstop, with some ministers concerned her plans could leave the UK in a permanent limbo.
The prime minister hopes to win the backing of her ministers for a draft withdrawal agreement at a special cabinet meeting likely to take place early next week.
But Baker, a leading figure in the backbench European Research Group (ERG), said Conservative MPs would be closely scrutinising the accompanying political declaration setting out the framework for the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU27.
“In the end, it’s not really about the backstop,” he said. “The tearing frustration is that the UK has been negotiating with itself.
“Many of us have long believed that the row over the backstop is at least partly confected in order to have an orchestrated breakthrough”.
The DUP also underlined their objections to May’s approach, casting fresh doubt on her ability to get a deal through parliament. In a letter to the DUP leader Arlene Foster, which was leaked to the Times, May said that the EU is still pushing for a so-called “backstop to the backstop”, which would keep the province in regulatory alignment with the Republic of Ireland to avoid a hard border.'
Read more: Tory Brexiters planning to reject deal even with backstop exit clause
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