The self-styled “Star Chamber” of Eurosceptic legal experts at the ERG has announced its backing for the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal after days of painstaking legal anaylsis.
The group, led by veteran Eurosceptic Tory MP Sir Bill Cash, has declared that “the agreement preserves the UK’s sovereignty as a matter of law and fully respects the norms of international sovereign-to-sovereign treaties.”
The statement will be received warmly by the Prime Minister, despite confidence that the agreement would be supported by the House of Commons regardless of the conclusions of the group.
After many years of wrangling over Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, the support of the ERG points to the decisive end of a long-standing fault line in the governing Conservative Party.
But the support was not totally unqualified. The group did criticise the agreement’s “level playing field” provisions, arguing that they “go further than in comparable trade agreements” while suggesting that “robust government” could mitigate their practical impact.
It was also not entirely uncritical on the subject of fishing, noting that the deal “temporarily limits the exercise of the UK’s sovereign rights over its waters that would apply in the absence of the Agreement.”
But, as with the “level playing field”, the conclusions of the group pointed to paths forward for the government. With an end to the fisheries transition due in 2026, the question of practical sovereignty becomes “dependent on the preparedness and robustness of the UK Government’s response at that time, which we are confident they will achieve.”
The announcement follows days of positive noise from other members of the influential ERG block, including MPs Andrew Bridgen and Sir John Redwood, and has led to further statements of support.
Prominent ERG member Steve Baker, who was at the forefront of backbench rebellions against Theresa May’s attempts at a deal, has said: “I love it when a plan comes together.”