Conservative leadership election is becoming a “grotesque arms race” for a destructive Brexit, warns MP.
The contest to succeed Theresa May risks creating an unstoppable momentum towards imposing a No Deal Brexit on the people of Britain, a former Conservative minister warns today.
Dr Phillip Lee, the Conservative MP for Bracknell and a leading supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said:
“On the Sunday TV shows we are being forced to watch a series of candidates vie with each other for who can come up with the most fantastical or extreme form of Brexit.
“They are either calling for something undeliverable - a renegotiation of the Withdrawal Agreement that the Government has already given a solemn undertaking it will not seek – or boasting that they are ready to inflict a destructive No Deal Brexit on the country without the people being given the final say.
“It seems that some of the most talented people in our party are now so frightened of Nigel Farage they have entered a grotesque arms race that many of us fear will end up with the UK leaving the EU without any deal at all on our future trading and security arrangements.
“This is not in the interests of our party or our country. Any Prime Minister who takes us out of the EU on WTO terms – the worst in the world – by imposing it on the people without a clear mandate would be guilty of a democratic outrage.
“That's why the case for taking this out of the hands of the politicians and putting it back into the hands of the public through a People’s Vote is getting stronger by the day.”
Boris Johnson used an interview with the Sunday Times to say he would withhold the £39 billion payments due to the EU – much of which involves legal obligations – while he sought a different Withdrawal Agreement, as well as scrap the Irish backstop and step up plans for a No Deal Brexit.
Speaking on Sky News, Sajid Javid said he would seek “changes to the backstop - a time limit or some form of proper mechanism”. But he added: “If I have to choose between no deal and no Brexit, I will choose no deal.”
Jeremy Hunt, also speaking to Sky News, said he believed he could renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement but added: “If the only way to leave the European Union to deliver on the result of the referendum, was to leave without a deal, then I would do that.”
Michael Gove, in an interview with the BBC, also insisted it was possible to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement, saying he wanted “a full stop to the backstop…an end to the backstop”.
Esther McVey, also on the BBC, accepted that the Withdrawal Agreement could not be re-opened, but refused to rule out preventing Parliament from sitting if that was the only way to force a No Deal Brexit through, saying: “I would use any tool at my disposal.”
The comments from the leadership candidates come on the day that over 800 UK business people wrote to them asking for a No Deal Brexit to be taken off the table.
A link to that story is here:
In its decision on March 22, agreeing to extend the implementation of Article 50 until October 31, the European Council stressed that the Withdrawal agreement was not open for renegotiation.
“The European Council reiterates that there can be no opening of the Withdrawal Agreement, and that any unilateral commitment, statement or other act should be compatible with the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement and must not hamper its implementation.
The decision can be read here: