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Artillery Row

Brexit deal agreed

ERG prepare their lawyers to scrutinise the text of the deal

The Prime Minister has announced that a deal has been agreed with the European Union.

The government have released a statement saying: “Everything that the British public was promised during the 2016 referendum and in the general election last year is delivered by this deal.”

We have taken back control of our money, borders, laws, trade and our fishing waters.”

There are just eight days to go before the end of the transition period and the legislation needed to implement the deal will still need to be passed by both houses of parliament. Sources suggest the Government intends to bring parliament back from recess on Wednesday and pass the EU trade agreement bill through in a single day.

Senior Brexiteers in government, who were noticeably rebellious backbenchers, appear to have swallowed any potential qualms about parliament’s absolute inability to scrutinise such a deal, therefore the bounce is on.

Veteran eurosceptic Sir Bill Cash is expected to preside over the ERG’s “star chamber” of eurosceptic lawyers to scrutinise the text of any deal.

The lawyers gathered several times before to scrutinise aspects of Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement, most notably when they reached the same conclusion as the then Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, that it was not possible for the UK to legally leave an aspect of the Withdrawal Agreement then known as the Northern Ireland backstop, and vigorously opposed by then backbenchers like Boris Johnson.

The last time it convened the star chamber included former DUP MP Nigel Dodds, the respected eurosceptic lawyer Martin Howe QC, the current Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and the current Attorney General, Suella Braverman QC.

One senior member of the ERG said: “The Government understands it needs to give us a reasonable amount of time, you can’t absorb 800 pages overnight, it would take the best part of a week to read and consider it.”

If they do not believe there is enough time to scrutinise the deal, an ERG source suggests members could vote against the programme motion which sets the timetable for the legislation. It remains to be seen what Labour would do in that event, and whether Sir Keir Starmer’s tactical support for getting Brexit done for his own reasons can be combined with demanding “adequate parliamentary scrutiny”. Labour whips are thus as likely to want to know in advance how large any ERG rebellion could be as the government ones are.

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