Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland should be the “end of Boris Johnson”, Tory MPs have said as they urged the former prime minister to leave politics and let the Conservative Party “move on”.
Mr Sunak is cautiously optimistic that his Windsor Framework agreement will be enough to win round critics of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was originally signed by his predecessor back in 2019.
Mr Johnson has yet to formally give his verdict on the new deal, which would effectively eliminate the trade border that his protocol created in the Irish Sea, but his opinion could dictate whether Mr Sunak is successful in pushing through his deal.
The Prime Minister’s allies have been concerned that Mr Johnson could oppose the framework and thereby stir up a rebellion on the backbenches as a means to catapult himself back into No 10.
But Tory MPs believe the details of the new agreement marked a turning point for Mr Sunak and have warned Mr Johnson that he should step away from frontline politics.
Asked whether the Conservative backbenches supported the deal, one former minister told i: “What is not to like? The only people annoyed are the die hard Boris mob. It took Rishi to get Brexit done.
“It is time for Boris to retire and make a lot of money and let the Conservative Party move on to life post-Brexit.”
Pressed on whether they believed Mr Sunak’s new Brexit deal for Northern Ireland would be the end of Mr Johnson’s hopes of re-entering Downing Street, the MP added: “It ought to be. But he [Mr Johnson] has a devoted team who he will probably march to the top of the hill again and then embarrass them by wimping out – incinerating the Conservative Party again.”
The former prime minister’s supporters have yet to speak out on the deal, but several key Brexiteers have given their approval to the document, including former Cabinet members Andrea Leadsom, Liam Fox and David Davis.
Mr Sunak appeared to suggest he had spoken to his predecessor before publishing the details of the deal.
Asked if he had briefed Mr Johnson regarding the agreement, he told the BBC: “Of course I speak to the former prime minister.
“But this is not about any of us, it is not about personalities, it is not about Westminster. This is about the people of Northern Ireland and what is best for them.”
Reports emerged on Monday evening that Mr Johnson had advised the DUP not to be too quick to endorse the deal.
Tory Brexiteers in the European Research Group (ERG) will meet on Tuesday evening and will convene MP Sir Bill Cash’s so-called “star chamber” of lawyers to scrutinise the deal before deciding whether to back it.
The protocol was designed to prevent a hard border with Ireland after Brexit but means Northern Ireland has continued to follow EU rules on goods to prevent checks being needed when crossing into the Republic.