Boris Johnson is now supporting the Brexit deal - but once said it was like 'a suicide vest'

PUBLISHED: 20:18 27 March 2019 | UPDATED: 21:13 27 March 2019

Boris Johnson. Photograph: PA / Stefan Rousseau

Boris Johnson. Photograph: PA / Stefan Rousseau

PA Archive/PA Images

Critics of Theresa May’s deal appear to be have shifted position despite strident criticism in the past.

Some have signalled they are ready to fall in line amid fears Brexit could be lost altogether.

Boris Johnson, who once likened the deal to a “suicide vest” wrapped around the British constitution, is the latest to perform a u-turn after Theresa May said she would step down if the deal is passed.

MPs at a meeting of the European Research Group (ERG) said the prominent Brexiteer would now back the deal.

The former foreign secretary claimed in September 2018 that: “We have opened ourselves to per-petual political blackmail. We have wrapped a suicide vest around the British constitution - and handed the detonator to Michel Barnier.”

As recently as Monday, in his Daily Telegraph column, Johnson said May should “come out of the EU now - without the backstop”.

“It is time for the PM to channel the spirit of Moses in Exodus, and say to Pharaoh in Brussels - let my people go,” he said.

But Johnson’s former minsiterial aide Conor Burns said he told the ERG that the “palpable risk of losing Brexit altogether” and the chance of change in the next phase after Mrs May signalled she would quit “means we have little choice but to vote for the Withdrawal Agreement”.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, who heads the pro-Brexit ERG tweeted: “The choice seems to be May’s deal or no Brexit.”

He told the Today programme: “I think that we have got to the point where legally leaving is better than not leaving at all. Half a loaf is better than no bread.”

In the past, he has attacked the deal, saying it could potentially leave Britain as a “slave state”.

MORE: Boris Johnson ‘lacks qualities needed to be good PM’ says 60% of Tories

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He described the Brexit white paper in July 2018 as “the greatest vassalage since King John paid homage to Philip II at Le Goulet in 1200”.

Rees-Mogg said: “This white paper has not needed age to turn yellow. There are very few signs of the Prime Minister’s famous red lines.

“It is a pale imitation of the paper prepared by David Davis, a bad deal for Britain. It is not something I would vote for nor is it what the British people voted for.”

Earlier this month, Nigel Evans gave an explanation of his turnaround by tweeting on March 12: “I more fear being trapped in the EU than being trapped in the backstop so I will vote to leave the EU tonight.”

Sutton Coldfield MP Andrew Mitchell also decided to back the deal after opposing the last one.

He wrote in the Daily Telegraph in December: “This deal does the reverse of what it says on the tin. Far from settling matters over Europe, it perpetuates the deep divisions that have engulfed our country. Indeed it enshrines them.

“This deal would leave us as a rule taker. That will satisfy neither side.

“It ensures that those who believe we should remain in the EU will campaign to become a rule maker once again, and those who voted to leave will feel we have not done so.

“They will feel the result of the referendum has not been respected. It is the worst of all worlds.”

Michael Fabricant spoke in January of how his “dream of a global trading Britain with the brightest of futures would be dashed if the Withdrawal Agreement were passed”.

He has now explained his shift in position in the Daily Telegraph, writing: “For my part, I told the ERG I must now reluctantly vote with my head and no longer with my heart.

“I explained that if the Withdrawal Agreement is not passed on Thursday or early next week, our Remainer Parliament will seize control and destroy Brexit.”

Brexiteer Peter Bone did not rule out voting for the deal, saying he would “cross that bridge when we come to it”, according to The Guardian.

He told BBC Newsnight earlier this month: “If a deal is a bad deal, it’s a bad deal, and I’m not going to vote for it.”

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