‘The spears in my back will be from the Spartans’: Boris Johnson ‘admits he faces Tory Brexiteer revolt’ amid claims the PM is plotting climbdown over Irish backstop
- Boris Johnson is facing a five-week scramble to get a Brexit deal with the EU
- Speculation over a backstop climdown after the PM was hemmed in by rebels
- Mr Johnson told Remainers he expected ‘spears in the back’ from hardliners
The Prime Minister told Remainer rebels he is expecting ‘spears in my back’ from so-called ‘Spartans’ in his own party.
The remarks emerged amid claims Mr Johnson is softening his demand that the Irish border backstop is completely scrapped.
Instead aides are believed to be examining proposals for arrangements that would apply only to Northern Ireland, rather than aligning the whole UK with EU market rules.
That could raise tensions with the DUP, which has insisted it will not accept anything that risks splitting the union.
Mr Johnson previously stated that he was seeking a ‘backstop-ectomy’, to remove the controversial provision from the Withdrawal Agreement altogether.
However, the premier’s options are looking increasingly limited, after Parliament passed a law effectively banning No Deal at the end of October, and refused his call to trigger an early general election.
There are signs that Boris Johnson (pictured on a visit to a London school yesterday) is ready to compromise on his Brexit demands after he admitted he faces a damaging revolt from hardline Tory Eurosceptics
Mr Johnson now has just five weeks to secure an agreement with the EU, or break his ‘do or die’ vow to take the UK out of the bloc by Halloween.
The only other plausible option appears to be resigning before October 19, when the law requires him to beg the EU for an extension.
The premier held out an olive branch to Conservatives who are deeply unhappy at his decision to expel 21 MPs who rebelled on Brexit from the party. They included eight former Cabinet ministers.
Amber Rudd quit the Cabinet and the Tory whip over the weekend in protest at the draconian move.
But the PM is understood to have told ministers yesterday that he was the ‘most liberal Tory PM in decades’, denying the party was lurching to the extremes.
According to the Sun, Mr Johnson told Remainer rebels during talks that he would need their support on Brexit soon.
What happens next in the Brexit crisis?
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn are drawing battle lines for an election after Parliament was prorogued last night.
But the poll might not be triggered for at least another month – and the date of the ballot is likely to be well into December.
Here is how the coming weeks could pan out:
September 14-18: Lib Dem conference takes place in Bournemouth
September 21-25: Labour conference in Brighton
September 28-October 2: Tory conference takes place in Manchester, with Mr Johnson giving his first keynote speech as leader on the final day. This will be a crucial waypointer on how Brexit talks are going.
October 14: Parliament is due to return with the Queen’s Speech – the day before Mr Johnson had hoped to hold a snap election.
October 17-18: A crunch EU summit in Brussels, where Mr Johnson has vowed he will try to get a Brexit deal despite Remainers ‘wrecking’ his negotiating position.
October 19: If there is no Brexit deal by this date Remainer legislation obliges the PM to beg the EU for an extension to avoid No Deal.
October 21: Decisive votes on the Queen’s Speech, which could pave the way for a confidence vote.
October 31: The current deadline for the UK to leave the EU.
November/December: An election looks inevitable, but Labour is hinting it might push the date back towards Christmas to humiliate the PM.
‘The spears in my back won’t be from you, they’ll come from the Spartans,’ he said.
Steve Baker, head of the Tory Eurosceptic ERG group, today tweeted cryptically about previous comments by Dominic Cummings that ‘politics involves very similar tragi-comic scenes re-created by some of the basic atoms’.
The idea of a Northern Ireland-only backstop was floated by the EU more than two years ago, but rejected by Theresa May as something no UK PM could accept.
The Prime Minister held talks with the DUP last night, with leader Arlene Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds spending more than an hour inside Downing Street.
They seemed to have been reassured. Speaking afterwards, Mrs Foster said the PM demonstrated his ‘commitment to securing a deal which works for the entire United Kingdom’ as well as Ireland.
She made clear he had ruled out a full Northern Ireland-only backstop – but appeared to leave some wriggle room for an alignment with the Republic on agriculture and regulations.
The meeting came as Channel 4 reported the PM has asked Government officials to examine the feasibility of building a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland, an idea Mr Johnson has previously floated.
A Government spokesman said: ‘Government regularly commissions work to examine the feasibility of projects.
‘During the leadership campaign candidates spoke about a number of issues which resulted in Number 10 commissions ahead of a new Prime Minister taking over.
‘This PM has made no secret of his support for infrastructure projects that increase connectivity for people and particularly those that strengthen the Union.’
Meanwhile, Labour’s Brexit civil war has escalated with deputy leader Tom Watson saying a referendum should take place before an election.
That directly contradicts Jeremy Corbyn’s position, which is that Labour would offer a referendum in its manifesto.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer will attempt to paper over the cracks when he makes a speech at the TUC conference in Brighton later.
In a boost for Mr Johnson, a ComRes poll for the Telegraph today suggested 43 per cent of voters believe the UK should leave without a deal on October 31 if the EU refuses to make any more concessions.
That was compared to 32 per cent who disagreed and 25 per cent who did not know.
However, 46 per cent said they were ‘fearful’ of the consequences of a no-deal Brexit. Some 33 per cent disagreed and 21 per cent answered ‘don’t know’.
The poll of 2,016 UK adults was conducted between September 6 and 8.
Today also marks a deadline set by MPs for the Government to publish communications connected to prorogation and no-deal Brexit planning.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve’s demand for all written and electronic contact about the temporary suspension of Parliament and Operation Yellowhammer documents since July 23 to be released was approved by 311 votes to 302 on Monday.
The Prime Minister held talks with the DUP last night, with leader Arlene Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds (pictured) spending more than an hour inside Downing Street
He used the parliamentary device of a humble address to the Queen to ask for the documents to be put before the Commons by ministers by no later than 11pm.
Mr Grieve’s motion asked for all correspondence and communications, formal or informal, including WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal, Facebook Messenger, private email accounts, text messages, iMessage and official and personal mobile phones connected to the present Government since July 23 relating to prorogation.
It lists key individuals of Mr Johnson’s Government, including senior adviser Dominic Cummings and director of legislative affairs Nikki da Costa.
The Government described the scope of the information requested as ‘disproportionate and unprecedented’, adding in a statement after the vote: ‘We will consider the implications of this vote and respond in due course.’
One government told MailOnline: ‘Grieve can f*** off.’