‘A chapter is over’: Tory MPs hail end of Brexit drama as Rishi Sunak’s new deal for Northern Ireland is overwhelmingly endorsed by the Commons as Conservative backbench revolt collapses
- MPs vote by 515 to 29 in favour of the so-called ‘Stormont Brake’ for N Ireland
By Greg Heffer, Political Correspondent and James Tapsfield Political Editor For Mailonline
Published: | Updated:
Tory MPs today hailed the end of Brexit drama in the House of Commons as MPs overwhelmingly approved Rishi Sunak’s new deal for Northern Ireland.
The Prime Minister saw a key part of his Windsor Framework endorsed by the Commons as MPs voted by 515 to 29 in favour of the so-called ‘Stormont Brake’.
It came after a threatened Tory revolt collapsed with just 22 Conservative backbenchers voting against Mr Sunak’s agreement.
A rebellion had been spearheaded by ex-PMs Boris Johnson and Liz Truss – and was joined by a number of former Cabinet ministers – but failed to gather enough support to deal a serious blow to Mr Sunak.
After the convincing Commons victory for the PM, ex-Tory chief whip Julian Smith – who had failed to get MPs to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal in 2019 – paid tribute to the huge majority secured by Mr Sunak.
‘A chapter is over,’ Mr Smith, also a former Northern Ireland Secretary, posted on Twitter.
The Windsor Framework, which was agreed between Mr Sunak and Brussels last month, seeks to amend the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol.
Downing Street chose the Stormont Brake part of the deal – intended to provide a veto on the imposition of new EU regulations in Northern Ireland – for this afternoon’s crunch vote because it represented the ‘most significant’ element of the Framework.
MPs voted by 515 to 29 in favour of the so-called ‘Stormont Brake’ – a key part of Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland
The PM saw a threatened Tory revolt collapse with just 22 Conservative backbenchers voting against his agreement
The Tory rebellion against Mr Sunak’s deal was spearheaded by his predecessors Liz Truss and Boris Johnson
Who voted against Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal?
The division list showed the 29 MPs who voted against were:
22 Conservative MPs: Adam Afriyie (Windsor), Jake Berry (Rossendale and Darwen), Peter Bone (Wellingborough), William Cash (Stone), Christopher Chope (Christchurch), Simon Clarke (Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland), Richard Drax (South Dorset), James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend East), Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green), Mark Francois (Rayleigh and Wickford), Jonathan Gullis (Stoke-on-Trent North), Adam Holloway (Gravesham), Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood), Boris Johnson (Uxbridge and South Ruislip), David Jones (Clwyd West), Danny Kruger (Devizes), Craig Mackinlay (South Thanet), Matthew Offord (Hendon), Priti Patel (Witham), John Redwood (Wokingham), Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset), Elizabeth Truss (South West Norfolk).
Six DUP MPs: Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry), Jeffrey Donaldson (Lagan Valley), Carla Lockhart (Upper Bann), Gavin Robinson (Belfast East), Jim Shannon (Strangford), Sammy Wilson (East Antrim).
One Independent MP: Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire).
*DUP MPs Ian Paisley (North Antrim) and Paul Girvan (South Antrim) acted as tellers for the noes.
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Mr Sunak had earlier appeared to be scrambling to contain the Conservative backbench rebellion after a series of Tory big beasts vowed to oppose his deal.
But, in the end, a total of just 22 Tory MPs – including Mr Johnson and Ms Truss – rebelled against Mr Sunak in this afternoon’s vote.
They were joined by ex-Cabinet ministers Sir Iain Duncan Smith, Priti Patel and Jacob Rees-Mogg in voting against the Stormont Brake.
All eight DUP MPs (two of whom acted as tellers for the No vote) and independent MP Andrew Bridgen also opposed the PM’s agreement.
Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats joined the bulk of Tory MPs in voting in favour of the Windsor Framework package.
Following the Commons’ approval of Mr Sunak’s deal, a Government spokesman said: ‘We are pleased the House of Commons has endorsed the Windsor Framework and agreed the legislation to enact the Stormont brake – the most significant part of the Windsor Framework.
‘The Stormont Brake puts power back into the hands of Stormont and Westminster, ending the automatic alignment and ratchet effect of new EU law in Northern Ireland that would exist without it.
‘The Windsor Framework is a turning point for the people of Northern Ireland, fixing the problems with the old Protocol to ensure the smooth flow of internal UK trade, safeguard Northern Ireland’s place in the Union and address the democratic deficit.’
During the debate on the Stormont Brake prior to this afternoon’s vote, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris had warned it would be ‘intolerable’ for the province to ‘have full and automatic dynamic alignment with EU goods rules with no say for the Northern Ireland Assembly and no veto for amending or replacing those measures’.
After the vote result, Mr Heaton-Harris – who was closely involved in the negotiations with the EU over the Windsor Framework – said MPs had ‘voted to ensure that the people of Northern Ireland, through a restored Executive, will have full democratic input to the laws that apply to them’.
The DUP have boycotted powersharing at Stormont – and prevented the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and Northern Ireland Assembly – since last May as part of their protest against the Protocol.
Their opposition to the Windsor Framework has dashed hopes of a swift resolution to the political crisis in Northern Ireland.
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson today made clear his party would not yet return to Stormont.
He posted on Twitter: ‘I have consistently indicated that fundamental problems remain notwithstanding progress made.
‘Consequently, there is not a sustainable basis at this stage to enable us to restore Stormont.
‘We will vote against the proposal today & continue to engage with the government to secure clarification, reworking & change.’
Mr Johnson broke off from his four-hour Partygate grilling by the Privileges Committee in order to vote against Mr Sunak’s deal
Ms Truss also voted against the Stormont Brake, as did ex-home secretary Priti Patel and a number of other former Cabinet ministers
Earlier today, in the face of the DUP’s opposition and a growing Tory rebellion, Mr Sunak had insisted the Windsor Framework was a ‘good deal’ for Northern Ireland.
Speaking at PMQs, Mr Sunak argued the package will protect Northern Ireland’s ‘place in our previous Union’.
Asked by the SNP whether he was worried about his predecessors’ opposition, Mr Sunak replied: ‘The Windsor Framework represents a good deal for the people and families and businesses of Northern Ireland.
‘It restores the balance of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement and ensures Northern Ireland’s place in our precious Union.’
Outside the chamber, the PM’s press secretary declined to say whether Mr Sunak was disappointed about the decision by Mr Johnson and Ms Truss to oppose the Windsor Framework.
‘I am not going to comment on individual MPs and their voting intentions,’ the spokeswoman said.
She said Mr Sunak ‘believes this is the right deal’.
The spokeswoman dodged a question on whether Mr Sunak had spoken to his predecessors, saying: ‘He has been engaging with colleagues from across the House on this matter.’
Mr Johnson, who had already voiced concerns about the deal Mr Sunak brokered with Brussels, this morning confirmed he would be opposing the Stormont Brake in the Commons.
The ex-PM said in a statement that the terms of the new Brexit agreement with Brussels were ‘not acceptable’.
‘I will be voting against the proposed arrangements today,’ he said.
‘Instead, the best course of action is to proceed with the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, and make sure that we take back control.’
Mr Johnson later broke off from his four-hour Partygate grilling by the Privileges Committee in order to vote against Mr Sunak’s deal
Sources close to Ms Truss said she had concluded Mr Sunak’s deal ‘does not satisfactorily resolve the issues thrown up by the Protocol and almost fatally impinges on the UK’s ability to diverge from EU rules and regulations’.
Meanwhile, senior figures in the European Research Group of Tory eurosceptics had urged its members to rebel.
In a sign of the rising Conservative tensions ahead of this afternoon’s vote, Northern Ireland minister Steve Baker – a former ERG chair – warned this morning that Mr Johnson risks looking like a ‘pound shop Nigel Farage’.
He appealed for colleagues to ‘bank the win’ and move on.
Quizzed by journalists in Whitehall this morning, Mr Baker had urged Mr Johnson and Ms Truss to come on board.
‘Both of them should be backing the Windsor Framework today,’ he said.
‘What I would say is they are both better than this. We’ve partly reached this point thanks to Liz Truss setting the process in train.
‘And today’s measures are better, of course, than the protocol that Boris Johnson put in place, a protocol which he spoke about and those things turned out not to be accurate.
‘So he has a choice: he can be remembered for the great acts of statecraft that he achieved or he can risk looking like a pound shop Nigel Farage.
‘I hope he chooses to be remembered as a statesman.’
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has already announced he will be giving the final go-ahead for the Windsor Framework at a meeting with the EU’s Maros Sefcovic on Friday.
The DUP had already said its eight MPs would vote against the regulation to implement the Stormont Brake as it continues to seek changes to the overall Windsor Framework.
Mr Johnson, who agreed the original Northern Ireland Protocol with Brussels as a way to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland, had earlier this month indicated that he would find it ‘very difficult’ to support the Windsor agreement.
The ERG said the Stormont Brake, which is intended to provide a veto on the imposition of new EU regulations in Northern Ireland, is ‘practically useless’ following an analysis of the Windsor Framework by its ‘star chamber’ of lawyers.
Downing Street has indicated that there could be further votes in the weeks ahead on the statutory instruments needed to implement other elements of Framework.
However, there is frustration among some MPs that Mr Sunak is resisting calls for an overall vote on the whole document.
Conservative backbencher Peter Bone said he is ‘pretty miffed’ about the Government’s approach to a vote .
‘I’m really pretty miffed that the Government is avoiding scrutiny on this, and on the Brake itself, it seems to fail all the tests,’ Mr Bone, who was deputy leader of the Commons for three months last year, told Sky News.
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MPs approve Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland by 515 to 29 votes