Rishi Sunak’s hopes of selling his Northern Ireland deal to his party were given a boost on Monday when a senior Eurosceptic Conservative MP said the UK prime minister had “done very well” in negotiations with Brussels.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, former business secretary, gave a cautious welcome to the outline agreement to overhaul Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit trading arrangements.

But he said the final view of Eurosceptic Conservatives could depend heavily on whether the deal satisfies Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist party, which is blocking the formation of a power-sharing government at Stormont.

“From what I’ve heard, [Sunak] has done very well, but I’m not sure he has achieved the objective of getting the DUP back into power-sharing, which is the fundamental point of it,” Rees-Mogg told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

Meanwhile, Steve Baker, the Northern Ireland minister who once called himself the “hard man of Brexit”, scotched suggestions he might quit Sunak’s government, telling GB News: “I can only say this, the PM is on the cusp of securing a really great deal for everyone involved.”

A deal would settle the dispute arising since the UK left the EU single market and customs union in 2021 via changes to the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol, which sets out the region’s trading regime and was part of the Brexit agreement finalised by Boris Johnson in 2019.

Sunak’s allies spent the weekend briefing Tory MPs on the broad shape of his proposed Brexit deal and hope they can cut the number of potential rebels to between 20 and 30 hardcore Eurosceptics, and perhaps fewer.

Downing Street has yet to say whether it will hold a House of Commons vote on the agreement, although Dominic Raab, deputy prime minister, said on Sunday that MPs would be able to “express a view”.

However, MPs ultimately express that view, Sunak can rely on Labour support to win the day in any parliamentary vote, but he nevertheless wants to minimise any Conservative rebellion.

Sunak’s allies fear that any claims of a “sellout” to Brussels over the protocol could fuel Tory revolts on other issues, including demands for tax cuts in chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Budget on March 15.

Boris Johnson, former prime minister, is a key player. He has already said that Sunak should continue to take a more abrasive approach with Brussels by pressing ahead with UK legislation to scrap the protocol altogether.

However, one senior Eurosceptic Conservative MP said he was “encouraged” by what he had heard of the proposed Brexit deal, but added Sunak should have brought the DUP into his confidence at an earlier stage.

He said: “So far, it sounds quite good. If it had been handled better, I wonder if the DUP could have been brought onside already.”

The fact that some Eurosceptic Tories are criticising Sunak’s tactics in the handling of the deal, rather than the agreement itself, will encourage Downing Street to think it can contain any Conservative revolt.

Two key tests for Sunak’s deal lie ahead. The first will involve the DUP’s 12 party officers studying the legal text before deciding whether the party should end its boycott of the devolved assembly at Stormont.

The second test focuses on the European Research Group of pro-Brexit Conservative MPs assembling a “star chamber” of lawyers to pore over the legal text of Sunak’s deal before deciding how to respond.

One ERG member said it felt “like Budget day”, where a package might initially look impressive but then “several weeks and months later we see the true consequences and ramifications of the policy”.

But pro-European Tories claim the ERG is no longer the potent force it once was, with one saying fewer than 30 Tory MPs turned up to a meeting of the group last week to discuss the deal.

“Rishi would probably gain an advantage in taking them on: it would prove he isn’t weak,” added one former Tory minister.

Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader, has indicated he will back whatever deal Sunak strikes with Brussels, hoping to show that the opposition party will act in the national interest.

“Frankly, any steps in this direction are going to be an improvement on what we have got,” said Starmer. “I can say with confidence we back the deal.”

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