Rishi Sunak’s Brexit deal may save Tories from ‘election wipeout’

Rishi Sunak discusses NI agreement in Parliament

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Rishi Sunak’s new Brexit deal could save the Conservative Party from being “completely wiped out at the next general election” and convince voters to “think twice” about siding with Sir Keir Starmer’s “thinly-veiled agenda”, Michael Gove’s ex-wife has claimed. The Prime Minister has finally achieved what many thought was impossible by striking a new deal with the European Union on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

MPs are not likely to get a vote on the deal in the House of Commons until later this month, but the early reaction to the treaty from many Brexiteers has been generally positive.

Alongside former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Michael Gove became a key cornerstone of the Vote Leave campaign in the lead-up to the EU referendum in June 2016.

Now his former wife Sarah Vine, who was married to Mr Gove during that historic vote, has piled praise on Mr Sunak and claimed his Brexit deal could go a long way to getting the Tories back onto the road to recovery.

Writing in the Daily Mail, she said: “Politically, he (Rishi Sunak) may have achieved something equally important: saving the Conservative Party from getting completely wiped out at the next general election.

“They have turned the debate into a cultural civil war, casting themselves as progressive, inclusive visionaries, while demonising those who voted Leave as piggy-eyed, immigrant-hating, thick Little Englanders.

“So the idea that all this might finally be about to end, that in some way all of us — on both sides of the debate — might at last be approaching a form of closure, is something I had not dared even to hope for.”

“Even if this deal progresses smoothly, I’m not sure it will be enough to restore the public’s faith in the party completely. But it might make them think twice about signing up to Sir Keir’s thinly veiled agenda of class warfare and anti-everything dogma.

“It might go some way to making up for the chaos of the past year and to restoring the Conservatives’ reputation for responsible government which — thanks to Liz Truss — has taken a serious kicking.”

Ms Vine claimed it seemed it would be “easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle” than for the UK and EU to put all their differences to one side and move forward”.

But the columnist added Mr Sunak “has managed it”, stopping short of describing him as a “messiah” but labelling him a “very clever boy”.

Ms Vine continued: “Part of it is that he is operating at arm’s length from the whole mess. The rest of the Conservative Party, from Boris Johnson to my ex-husband Michael Gove, got so tangled in the Gordian knot that the more they tried to unravel it, the tighter it became.

“Not so Rishi. Sure, he voted Leave — but he only entered Parliament in 2015, just a year before the referendum. He was not on anyone’s radar then and not involved in the Brexit psychodrama and the schisms within the party.

“He’s a good deal younger than all the main players, a decade or more. It needed someone with a fresh perspective and less Brexit baggage to cut through it all.”

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Mr Sunak and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met in Windsor on Monday to secure a historic Brexit deal on Northern Ireland.

The agreement, dubbed the ‘Windsor Framework’, removes barriers to trade across the Irish Sea and hands a “veto” to politicians in Stormont on EU law.

This was a huge boost to Mr Sunak and his Government as it was a set of concessions from Brussels that went a lot further than had been expected.

It does still include a role for the European Court of Justice – a move that had been highly criticised by some Brexiteers in the days leading up to yesterday’s talks.

Mr Sunak will now hope to see off any threat of rebellion from within his own ranks but the reception has been generally positive.

The reaction from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), once they have fully read and digested the new deal, will be crucial if the agreement is to help restore powersharing at Stormont.

A key element of the new treaty is an emergency “Stormont brake” on changes to EU goods rules that can be pulled by the Northern Ireland Assembly.

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