Boris Johnson faces a major Tory uprising over the government’s plans to tear up Northern Ireland’s protocol.
The controversial legislation, which aims to unilaterally change the post-Brexit deal the prime minister agreed with the European Union, will be submitted to the House of Commons tomorrow.
Critics argue the move violates international law – an accusation that Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis has firmly rejected.
It has now become clear that Conservative MPs are gearing up to vote against the bill, another blow to the Prime Minister’s authority just days after he thwarted an attempt to remove him from office.
A document shared by Tory backbenchers sets out their opposition to the legislation, which they say risks a trade war with the EU and also threatens the Union itself.
“Breaking international law to tear up the Prime Minister’s own treaty is damaging to everything the UK and the Conservatives stand for,” the document says.
The rebels say the bill is “the exact opposite of focusing on the cost of living and pursuing the priorities of the people, as we have been promised” and should be scrapped.
They say the prime minister should instead put “maximum pressure on the EU” to renegotiate the protocol, rather than act unilaterally.
And they add: “It is time to return to a conservative way forward: act with integrity, respect the treaties we sign, strengthen not weaken our precious Union, support causes and respect the democracy we commit to in the protocol. Northern Ireland have promised. This bill should be withdrawn.”
A number 10 source told HuffPost UK: “The message to Tory MPs is always the same – please support government policy.”
Meanwhile, Westminster insiders are also predicting that the legislation will take “a rough ride” in the House of Lords, with colleagues trying to change the bill.
But a source said: “Despite Johnson’s trials and tribulations, the government clearly still has a decent working majority that it can use to undo amendments, plus a deep well of Tory votes in the Lords that it can use in an emergency.” .”