Brexiteer warns what May seeks from EU will not satisfy backbenchers

Steve Baker suggests what prime minister is seeking from EU is no more than a ‘codicil’

Conservative MP Steve Baker has raised doubts about the ability of Theresa May to secure changes from the EU that will be supported by backbench MPs. Photograph: Reuters

Conservative MP Steve Baker has raised doubts about the ability of Theresa May to secure changes from the EU that will be supported by backbench MPs. Photograph: Reuters

 

A senior Tory Brexiteer has warned that there is “trouble ahead” for the Prime Minister, suggesting what she will seek from Brussels to get a Brexit deal will not win her backbench support.

European Research Group deputy chairman Steve Baker suggested that Theresa May was seeking something that was no more than a “codicil” instead of getting the EU to reopen the Withdrawal Agreement.

He tweeted after Theresa May wrote in The Sunday Telegraph that she would seek an alternative, or time-limiting changes, to the Irish border backstop.

He wrote: “Trouble ahead. Leave-backing MPs voted to support alternative arrangements in NI but with grave misgivings about the whole agreement. “Now the PM co-opts us into accepting everything but the backstop and, on the backstop, accepting a codicil.”

Britain’s International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has hinted he could support a delay to Brexit, in the right circumstances.

Dr Fox, who has previously spoken out against an extension to the Article 50 period, told Sky’s Ridge on Sunday: “That was in the context of us not having reached an agreement (with the EU) and simply extending the time. I don’t think that solves anything.

“If we actually have an agreement and it takes a little more time to get the legislation through to make that as smooth as possible I think that’s a very different argument.”

Pressed on the issue he added: “I think there is a big difference between if we have an agreement and we need some time to get the legalities done, that is one thing.

“To extend simply because we hadn’t reached an agreement would not provide any impetus for that agreement to be reached and in any case, there is no guarantee the EU would want to do that.”

Deal

Dr Fox also warned that while the UK could handle a no-deal Brexit, it was better to seek a deal.

He told Ridge on Sunday: “We would be able to deal with that scenario but it wouldn’t be in our interest to go there.

“It seems to me we have got to guard against two things. One is an irrational pessimism that says that everything will be a catastrophe and irrational optimism which says everything will be ok. “The truth lies between the two.”

Dr Fox also cautioned against relying on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules. Some Brexiteers have suggested the UK could leave the EU without a deal and use WTO tariffs and agreements.

Dr Fox told Sophy Ridge it was time to help strengthen and “update” the organisation, but added: “If WTO was so good people wouldn’t be looking to have trade agreements or customs unions which are ways in which you can further improve on those WTO rules.

“It has always seemed to me a bit strange that people would say ‘well we don’t need to worry about having a future trade deal with Europe, we can operate on WTO terms’, while at the same time saying we should have a free trade agreement with the United States to get away from WTO rules. We have to be consistent.”

Shadow British attorney general Shami Chakrabarti played down the idea that Labour MPs in Leave areas would accept “bribes” from Mrs May to support her Brexit deal.

After reports that the PM would offer incentives to opposition MPs in the poorest areas to break the whip, Baroness Chakrabarti told Ridge: “I don’t believe in the end that any Labour MP would really be fooled by what some people have called a bribe.

“That is not because Labour constituencies like vast parts of the country are desperate for more investment. It’s because you can’t just pick constituencies off in that very narrow sort of way.”

She added: “I do not believe that Labour voters and the most left behind constituencies would thank their MPs for these short-term isolated bribes. I just don’t see that commanding public confidence and support.

“When you think about how disenchanted people have been with politics and politicians in recent years the idea that that would be reversed by this sort of pork barrel politics, I just don’t see it.”

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald appeared on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC on Sunday morning and said peace cannot be disrupted in Ireland.

“As the Brexit drama comes to a climax, we have to accept there is a possibility, if not a probability, of a hard Brexit crash and in those circumstances, we believe that the disruption and damage to the island of Ireland would be such that, don’t imagine that we will philosophically take it on the chin,” she said.

The Sinn Féin leader added that the Good Friday Agreement would have to be revisited in the event of a hard Brexit.

“Put simply, if the border in Ireland cannot be mitigated, cannot be managed in the short term, well then you put the question democratically in the hands of the people and allow them to remove the border. “Bear in mind the people of Northern Ireland did not consent to Brexit.” - PA