Brexit: Cabinet minister refuses to confirm if MPs will get vote on Sunak's new deal
A cabinet minister has refused to confirm if MPs will be able to vote on a new Northern Ireland Brexit deal - after Rishi Sunak indicated they could.
Tom Tugendhat, who ran to replace Boris Johnson as prime minister, told Sky News Mr Sunak has said MPs will have their "voice heard" over the deal he is currently negotiating with the EU.
But when asked several times if that means MPs will be able to vote on the deal, security minister Mr Tugendhat would not confirm it and deflected to the Tory chief whip.
He told The Take with Sophy Ridge programme: "You'll have to ask the chief whip about that, I'm afraid. The chief whip is in charge of parliamentary business.
"Parliament is having its voice heard at the moment - the discussions that we are having.
"I am not going to tell you what the votes are or are not going to be."
Just hours earlier, Mr Sunak told MPs at Prime Minister's Questions parliament will get to "express its view" on what the settlement with Brussels might look like.
But after PMQs, the PM's spokesman said the talks are "still ongoing" and he did not want to "get ahead" of the talks when asked if MPs will be able to vote on the plan.
There were hopes the EU and Westminster would have agreed a new deal on Northern Ireland by the end of this week but those hopes appear to have been dashed as Tory Brexiteers and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) are not happy.
The current Northern Ireland Protocol, agreed by Mr Johnson, has effectively placed a border in the Irish Sea - something the ex-PM said would not happen - as goods coming from the rest of the UK have to be checked before entering Northern Ireland as they are at risk of entering the EU over the border in Ireland.
Businesses have been struggling, and many have had to close, due to the extra bureaucracy and cost, and the DUP has refused to form an executive in Northern Ireland unless the protocol is scrapped.
Mr Sunak held meetings with businesses affected by the protocol on Wednesday, including freight trade association Logistics UK who said the PM had a "detailed understanding" of the issues faced by businesses.
However, the head of trade at Logistics UK said "no details of the proposed NI Protocol were released" at the meeting.
Mr Sunak tweeted after the meeting: "Any deal must provide certainty, stability and clarity for the business community and work for the people of Northern Ireland."
Mr Tugendhat raised hopes Mr Sunak will secure a deal that will be advantageous to Northern Ireland.
He said: "I'm very confident that the PM will get the best deal for the country.
"And that is exactly what he wants, that is - by the way - also what the Taoiseach wants in Dublin, it is also what the President of the European Commission wants in Brussels."
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However, earlier on Wednesday, senior Tory MP and veteran Eurosceptic Sir Bernard Jenkin told Sky News the PM and the EU were "not very close" to a deal.
"I fear not very close, because what's been happening is the government has been strenuously trying to reach an agreement, but within very narrow confines," he said.
"The EU has said they won't consider reopening their mandate to look at new ways of approaching the whole question of Northern Ireland post-Brexit, and the consequence is that the negotiations have been on a very narrow mandate set by the EU and it doesn't look as though the government can resolve the powersharing crisis with any deal that will emerge from these negotiations."
So far, there has been no indication from the government as to what is in the plan Mr Sunak has put forward to the EU.
Watch Tom Tugendhat's full interview at 9pm on The Take with Sophy Ridge, as well as other political guests.