Great Britain

Hard Brexit opponents STILL hopeful Boris will strike agreement with close EU alignment

The Conservatives crushed political opponents in December’s general election, providing Boris Johnson with a huge 80-seat majority that has led to him taking a toughter stance with the European Union in trade talks. But one former cabinet minister has claimed many in Parliament expect Mr Johnson to “fold at the last minute” as the reality of a no deal Brexit approaches at the end of this year. The MP claimed the Prime Minister may have to rely on opposition votes for a softer deal if he wants to go down in history if he doesn’t want to be remembered as the leader who crashed the economy and broke up the union, with the issues Scottish independence and Irish reunification also continuing to persist.

The former minister highlighted a key move made by the Prime Minister last October, when he abandoned his DUP allies and accepted demands from Brussels for a customs border down the Irish sea, suggesting history may repeat itself again.

He told The Independent: “Despite everything, I think that close alignment is still the most likely outcome of this.

“If there’s a deal to be had with Brussels, it will be a deal with alignment on all sorts of things – social, environmental, workplace protections.

“That agreement is there to be had and the alternative is no deal. There isn’t a deal on offer that will give the UK easy access to the single market with no alignment. The question is which way does Boris jump?

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Brexit news: No deal opponents are hopeful the PM will sign a trade deal with close EU alignment (Image: GETTY)

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Brexit news: The Prime Minister has taken a hardline approach to EU talks (Image: GETTY)

“I’ve no doubt the prime minister will huff and puff right up to the wire about being ready to go for no deal, but just like last year he will be ready to fold at the last minute.”

In 2018, the Treasury forecasted the damage to the UK economy from Theresa May’s softer Brexit deal would be 3.9 percent of GDP over 15 years.

But the Government department predicted a no deal Brexit could blow a huge 9.3 percent hole in the economy over the same period, compared to the outcome from remaining in the bloc.

Mrs May suffered three crushing defeats in the House of Commons as ministers continued to vote her deal down.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson prepares to reject EU rules in these two key areas

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Brexit news: Boris Johnson wants a trade deal signed with the EU before the end of the transition period in December (Image: GETTY)

The former minister warned history could repeat itself with backbench Eurosceptics stalling at supporting any agreement which restricts the UK’s ability to decide its own rules and regulations.

Hewarned: “Yes, he’s got an 80-seat majority, but he only needs 40 of the ERG (European Research Group) to decide that he is selling out British sovereignty and suddenly he’s relying on opposition votes.

“There were plenty more than 40 ready to vote against Theresa May’s deal, and the election result and Brexit day itself have emboldened them. They feel like they’ve got Brexit under their belt and now they want more.

“Added to them are the new Tories from the north, who are a lot more pro-Brexit than earlier generations of Conservative MPs.

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Brexit news: Michel Barnier will feature heavily in trade deal talks (Image: GETTY)

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Brexit news: Theresa May failed the get her softer Brexit deal voted through Parliament (Image: GETTY)

“They’re going back to their seats and going to the working men’s clubs where people are solidly Brexit and just want to see an end to immigration and aren’t too fussed about the economics of it.

“And they have Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party breathing down their necks.”

The former minister also added: “The question really is whether Boris prefers to wreck the economy by going along with his backbenchers and going for no deal – or the Australia option as he’s now calling it – with all the disruption to trade and price hikes and business closures and job losses that would mean, not to mention going down in history as the Tory PM who broke up the union.

“Or whether he prefers to be the Tory PM who split the Conservatives and got a deal with Brussels through on the back of opposition votes.

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Brexit news: A crucial year lies ahead in trade talks (Image: GETTY)

“He seems to be sitting pretty now, but I think that’s the outcome he’s faced with.

“And he’s painting himself into a corner now with all this defiant rhetoric about the UK breaking away from the bonds of Europe and sailing off to blaze a trail around the world. The Brexit wing of his party love that stuff.

“It fires them up and it will be difficult for him to rein them in and persuade them that sticking with the trade links we already have and maintaining them is the better option.”