One of the groups which Boris Johnson has been keenest to have row in behind his Brexit deal is the eurosceptic European Research Group (ERG) of Conservative backbenchers. 28 so-called ‘Spartans’ opposed the deal proposed by Theresa May three times. Several of that group of 28 now find themselves in the Government, including Cabinet Ministers Priti Patel and Theresa Villiers, and are needless to say backing the deal proposed by the Prime Minister. What of the rest of the group? ERG Deputy Chairman Mark Francois revealed during the Saturday sitting of the House of Commons that the ERG officers were recommending to their colleagues that they back the Johnson deal; and now BrexitCentral can exclusively reveal how ERG Chairman Steve Baker conveyed that decision to a 7.30am meeting of the ERG that morning. A recording of Baker’s speech, obtained by BrexitCentral, reveals that he conceded the Johnson deal to be “deeply flawed and unattractive” but that “we must take the risks of this Withdrawal Agreement if we are to have any possibility of embracing a bright and hopeful future as we go forward”. He also expressed his hope that “if we can persuade the Government to restructure the way it negotiates so that we go forward… in a spirit of hope and courage and strength and goodwill… this Political Declaration on our future can deliver just the hopeful and bright future that we need.” His words were received at the end with loud banging of desks – the traditional mark of approval afforded by Tory MPs at private meetings . What follows is the full text of what he said; you can listen to the recording for yourself here. Good morning on this beautiful day. This historic day. There is only one certain path today. It is the path that lies behind us. It is closed off. It is inaccessible. We have arrived at a position where we have before us two paths. Both of them are precarious. Both of them have grave risks. Both of them have uncertain destinations. The Withdrawal Agreement that is before us is undoubtedly deeply, deeply flawed and unattractive. Those flaws do not need to be rehearsed in this room by me right now. You can all bring them to mind and I’m sure some of you will rehearse them this morning. The question before us is which of these two precarious and risky paths we wish to take: what are the possibilities? What are the certainties? I’m standing before you this morning to tell you that the advice of the ERG officers, which reflects the balance of the Steering Group, is that you should vote for the Agreement; that we should vote for the legislation to implement the Agreement; and vote for it through to completion and say so in public, provided that that legislation is not wrecked by our opponents, in which case we would have to take a view; and that throughout the day today, once we are committed to fighting with the Prime Minister, we keep fighting in the same direction as the Prime Minister, whatever the whip is today, in the context of the Letwin amendments. As one of our colleagues said earlier today, the trenches are about to be overrun. In such circumstances, what is required from all of us is discipline. If we are deciding together today to back the Prime Minister for the future of our country, we keep backing. We give him the tactical freedom to do what he thinks is right with his Chief Whip, with his other appointed members of the Government. And we keep backing him and that is what I’m going to do. Before I hand over to Mark [Francois], I just wish to say this. You’ve heard some passionate speeches from me. I can say this to you today in a way I could not have said it in any previous vote: I will vote for this today with my head held high knowing that for the rest of my life, as long as I live, in this moment of decision I am certain that we must take the risks of this Withdrawal Agreement if we are to have any possibility of embracing a bright and hopeful future. As we go forward, I am not voting for this Agreement because I think the Withdrawal Agreement is perfect, is without flaws. I will be voting for it because I trust in your resolve and in mine; because I trust in your courage and in mine; but above all because I trust in your love for our country and for the people within it and because I trust in mine. If we can persuade the Government to restructure the way it negotiates so that we go forward, not in a spirit of weakness and incompetence, but in a spirit of hope and courage and strength and goodwill, if we share our burden together and lightly and inspire the people of this country, I believe that this Political Declaration on our future can deliver just the hopeful and bright future that we need. And it is your officers’ recommendation, that you therefore vote with the Government.