Raab urges Tories to hold their nerve on final Brexit deal

About 700,000 people rallied in London on Saturday for a second referendum

UK Brexit secretary Dominic Raab on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC/Handout via Reuters

UK Brexit secretary Dominic Raab on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. Photograph: Jeff Overs/BBC/Handout via Reuters

 

The UK’s Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, has urged Conservatives to stay calm while they wait and see what a final Brexit deal looks like, amid renewed speculation about Theresa May’s leadership. The prime minister is expected to make a statement in the House of Commons on Monday after last week’s EU summit failed to make progress on Brexit.

“We’re at the end stage of the negotiations. I think it’s understandable that there are jitters on all sides of this debate. We need to hold our nerve; the end is in sight in terms of a good deal, the prize that we want: a good deal with the EU,” Mr Raab told the BBC.

“Colleagues should wait and see what that looks like. It won’t be a question of a fait accompli. They’ll have their full say on it. That’s what meaningful vote is all about. We won’t want to bring something back that we aren’t confident is a very good deal for the United Kingdom. And now is the time to play for the team.”

Earlier Mr Raab suggested that extending the post-Brexit transition period, which is due to end in December 2020, would be an alternative to the backstop that guarantees there will be no hard border in Ireland.

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“We won’t sacrifice Northern Ireland, and we must have finality to any backstop – whether through a time limit or a mechanism that enables the UK to leave, in case the EU doesn’t live up to its promise to get the future relationship in place swiftly. People understandably want to know when the Brexit process will end,” he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph.

‘Illegal’ backstop

Meanwhile, a leading Conservative Brexiteer is attempting to make illegal any backstop that would treat Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the United Kingdom. Former Brexit minister Steve Baker has put down amendments to a Bill that would give senior civil servants more powers to make decisions while the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive remains suspended.

Mr Baker’s amendments would prevent officials from agreeing “that distinct arrangements are appropriate for Northern Ireland in connection with leaving the European Union” without the approval of the Assembly. Officials would also be forbidden from implementing any new EU obligations that could arise during an implementation or transition period or under a Northern Irish backstop.

If they are approved, the amendments would kill off the backstop, because even if the Assembly is restored the DUP would block any action to implement distinct arrangements for Northern Ireland. If the Conservative government accepts Mr Baker’s amendments at this stage in the Brexit negotiations, the EU is likely to interpret it as a demonstration of bad faith.

The British prime minister said in Brussels last week that she stood by the commitments she made last December, March and June that there would be a legally operable backstop that would remain in place “unless and until” a permanent solution was found to keep the Border open after Brexit.

An estimated 700,000 people rallied in London on Saturday calling for a referendum on the final Brexit deal, which would include an option to remain in the EU. The rally heard from MPs from all the main parties and from figures in sport and showbusiness.