Steve Baker MP, the deputy chairman of the European Research Group (ERG), has claimed that passing the Withdrawal Agreement with the backstop would cause the Government to collapse.
After Theresa May suffered another defeat on her Brexit strategy on Thursday, the Conservative MP spoke to BBC Radio 4’s Todayprogramme to make the case that using Labour votes to pass the agreement would lead to a collapse of the Government.
He attributed this to the DUP, saying their confidence and supply agreement with Mrs May’s government could not be maintained in those circumstances.Mr Baker said: “Were this deal to pass through Parliament with this backstop on Labour votes, the Government would subsequently collapse because the DUP would not be able to maintain confidence and supply.
“I’m absolutely convinced our position is eminently reasonable and right.”
However, unlike many ERG members, the DUP voted for the Prime Minister’s motion on Thursday night, giving support to her current negotiating strategy.
Mr Baker said ERG members objected to Mrs May “reinterpreting” the vote from last month to replace the Withdrawal Agreement’s backstop with alternative arrangements for keeping the Irish border open.
He said: “We put an enormous amount of effort into uniting the party around the Malthouse Compromise, and then within a couple of days the Prime Minister was reinterpreting our vote.”The ERG are often referred to as hardline, as they are the group within Parliament pushing most strongly for a no-deal Brexit.
Baker objected to the characterisation, saying: “I really do rather object to being called ‘hardline’ when what we are doing is trying to deliver an exit with a deal which works for everybody, with a transition period. We are making enormous compromises to work across the party.”
He also rejected the idea that the ERG had undermined Theresa May’s efforts to get concessions from the EU by adding to doubts in Brussels over whether she can actually deliver a Commons majority for a deal.
He said: “This whole mess is a storm in a teacup. What we needed to achieve here was to send a signal that we are not going to be associated with taking no-deal off the table.”
“We cannot get ourselves into a position where we are associated with rejecting the UK leaving the EU without a Withdrawal Agreement,” he said. “It’s a catastrophic and foolish negotiating error and we cannot be associated with it.”