All-out Tory civil war erupts as Remainers plot to hand power to EU

Michel Barnier speaks on third anniversary on Brexit

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The Conservative Party is on the brink of an all-out civil war, as MPs are said to be furious at reports that the Government is considering handing power to the European courts. Rishi Sunak’s Government is said to be preparing to accept a role for the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in policing the Northern Ireland Protocol, which would be seen as a post-Brexit betrayal by many on the right of the party.

A source close to the eurosceptic Tory faction, the European Research Group (ERG), told the Daily Express that such a move would trigger a “civil war” in the party, and could lead to a revival of a pro-Boris Johnson faction.

Speaking about the prospect of a compromise on the ECJ, the source told the paper: “The gloves are off! That is one way to bring the Boris [Johnson] faction, the Reform Party and the civil war within the party back into play!”

The source said that such a move shows Downing Street “really hasn’t thought this through”, adding: “They just don’t get it. Number 10 is full of Remainers or people who just don’t get the primary point.

“Our sovereignty is at play here and that is the fundamental cause for concern.”

The ERG is said to be “up for a fight” over the issue, which has been a major sticking point on the issue of Northern Ireland since October.

A bigger role for the ECJ would stall any progress in solving the issue, as it would be unacceptable for both the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and for many in the right wing of the Tory Party.

The DUP is currently staging a boycott of the Stormont Assembly in protest of the protocol, refusing to return until the issues are resolved.

There has been no functioning devolved Government at Stormont since February 2022, with the DUP demanding fundamental change to the protocol before it considers a return to the assembly.

The party has laid out seven tests that any deal on the protocol much meet in order for the party to end the stalemate.

The role of the European Court of Justice is thought to be the crux of the DUP’s argument.

The ERG and the DUP are understood to be working “in lockstep” with one another, both being heavily opposed to the ECJ having any role in policing the protocol.

The Government has stepped up its efforts to resolve issues with the protocol in recent months, in a dispute which has been ongoing since October 2021.

A new Brexit deal is expected in the next fortnight as a result of the UK watering down its resistance to European judges ruling on issues in Northern Ireland.

While final sign-off is still needed from Number 10, sources close to the talks told the Telegraph that an agreement to end the longstanding dispute will be revealed in the coming weeks.

The plans will see goods travelling from the mainland UK destined for Northern Ireland avoid physical customs checks thanks to a new system of “red” and “green” lanes.

But sources told the paper that the role of the ECJ is likely to be presented differently by the EU and the UK.

Sources in Brussels say the agreement will see the ECJ presented as the ultimate arbiter of disputes about EU law that emerge from Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, UK sources are insisting that the vast majority of legal clashes will not involve the ECJ.

But the Government is no longer insisting that the ECJ must not be the ultimate arbiter on EU law issues in Northern Ireland, which signals a softening of the UK’s previously hardline position.

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