‘More EU than British’ DUP’s Sammy Wilson furious as he brands Tory rebels ‘EU agents’

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Boris Johnson’s controversial plan to override key elements of the Brexit deal he signed with Brussels has cleared its first Commons hurdle on Monday despite deep misgivings by some senior Tories. MPs voted to give the UK Internal Market Bill a second reading by 340 to 263 – a Government majority of 77. But as some Tory MPs obtained and two voted against the Bill, the DUP’s Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson blasted those who attempted to thwart the Prime Minister’s Brexit efforts. 

Speaking to TalkRADIO, Mr Wilson said: “These agents of the European Union, rather than past Prime Ministers or past Attorney Generals or law officers of half the crew that we have here in the House of Commons, they seem to have no ability to point the finger at the EU.

“But when the Government takes upon itself legislation to defend the people of the United Kingdom and the internal market of the United Kingdom and to defend the Union, which is the United Kingdom, then they jump up and down.

“And I can’t understand this. But it seems that there are people in the House of Commons that are more EU than British.”

Two Tory MPs – Sir Roger Gale and Andrew Percy – voted against the Bill, while 30 did not cast a vote although some may have been “paired” with opposition MPs.

The Government tally was bolstered by the support of seven DUP MPs.

The Prime Minister said the legislation was necessary to prevent the EU taking an “extreme and unreasonable” interpretation of the provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland.

He said some in Brussels were now threatening to block UK agri-food exports to the EU and to insist on tariffs on all goods moving to Northern Ireland from the rest of the UK.

However, some senior Conservatives warned they could not support the legislation in its present form after ministers admitted last week that it breached international law.

MPs will begin detailed line-by-line scrutiny of the Bill on Tuesday, with votes expected next week on amendments to the Northern Ireland provisions which some Tories may back.

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Sir Roger acknowledged he was in a “tiny minority” of Conservatives in voting against the Bill but predicted others could rebel when the Commons comes to consider the amendments which have been tabled.

“I took a view that you fight this tooth and nail at every step. Others have quite clearly decided they want to hold their fire. There is much to play for yet,” he told BBC2’s Newsnight.

In the Commons, Mr Johnson – who took the unusual step of opening the debate himself – said the “protective” measures were necessary because the EU was now trying to “leverage” the Northern Ireland protocol in the talks on a post-Brexit free trade deal.

He said Brussels negotiators were threatening to ban the sale of UK agri-food products anywhere in the EU, creating an “instant and automatic” prohibition on the movement of such goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

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“Absurd and self-defeating as that action would be even as we debate this matter, the EU still have not taken this revolver off the table,” he said.

Mr Johnson said some on the EU side even wanted to designate all goods moving from Britain to Northern Ireland as being “at risk” of entering the EU single market, making them liable to EU tariffs.

A number of Conservative former ministers made clear that they would not support any measure which breached international law, including Andrew Mitchell, Sir Oliver Heald and another former attorney general Jeremy Wright.

Sir Charles Walker, the vice-chairman of the powerful Tory backbench 1922 Committee, and Wakefield MP Imran Ahmad Khan – a member of last year’s new intake of Conservative MPs – said they would not be supporting the Bill at second reading.

Sir Bob Neill, the chairman of the Commons Justice Committee who has tabled an amendment requiring a vote of Parliament before ministers can exercise the new powers in the Bill, urged MPs to “take the opportunity to change and improve these clauses”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel defended the controversial clauses in the Internal Market Bill.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This is a safety net. And that is why we have introduced this in this particular Bill.”

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