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Westlake Legal Group > Theresa May MP

Daniel Hannan: Brexit. Vote Conservative in the European elections to help us deliver it – and finish the job.

Daniel Hannan is an MEP for South-East England, and a journalist, author and broadcaster. His most recent book is What Next: How to Get the Best from Brexit.

The latest two opinion polls show the Conservatives at 16 and 15 per cent in advance of the European elections, a huge decline over the past month. Those figures are bad enough, but the actual result could be even worse.

At this point in the cycle, surveys tend to overstate support for the traditional parties. Why? Because, although the pollsters’ question is “How will you vote in the European election?” many respondents hear it as “Which is your favourite party?” Polls therefore flatter Labour and the Conservatives and underestimate single-issue parties. At this stage last time – April 2014 – opinion polls had us at 27 per cent. On polling day, we secured 23.

That, though, is just the start of it. At the last three European elections, the date of the local elections was moved to coincide with the Euro-poll (a tiny example of how our domestic traditions are forever being rearranged for the EU’s convenience). This time, because the European election was unforeseen – and, even now, might theoretically not happen – it will stand alone. The lift that Conservative Euro-candidates get from their councillors will be removed. Many of our supporters won’t vote, whereas single-issue pro- and anti-Brexit parties will have no difficulty motivating their voters.

It gets worse. Until now, the Conservatives have had resources – human and financial – to fight campaigns. This time, we have no budget and many of our activists are on strike. And that’s before we get to the central problem, namely the anger that people feel over the delay in Brexit.

We could sink into single figures next month. Keen to give us a bit of a slap, voters might knock us into a hole too deep for any future leader to clamber out of. I know that we are supposed, before an election, to talk up our party’s prospects. But, on this occasion, it would be silly to ignore the gravity of our predicament. The European election could mark the moment when, after 190 years (350 if we count the Tory prelude) the Conservative Party ceases to be viable.

That is why, though I hate the fact that this poll is happening, I felt I had to stand again. I couldn’t walk away and watch as Jeremy Corbyn, buoyed up by victory, snatched at the levers of power.

I know some ConHome readers are sceptical. I know it because they keep telling me. It’s only a European election, they say. We want to register our annoyance at the failure to deliver Brexit, they say. We don’t want to endorse Theresa May, they say. We want to send a message on Brexit, they say.

Folks, that message was sent on 23 June 2016, when more Brits voted to leave the EU than have ever voted for anything. The Conservative Party got the message. What it didn’t get was the numbers needed to implement it.

This point cannot be stressed too strongly. The reason that Brexit hasn’t yet happened is not that Tory MPs are secretly trying to keep us in the EU. It is that all the other parties (except the DUP) are openly trying to do so. If you want to break the deadlock, give us the numbers. Give us the votes.

It’s true, obviously, that a European election isn’t a general election. But what do you think will happen if one of the two main parties is wiped out at a national poll? Such a party doesn’t just get up and start winning again. Look at the Canadian Tories after they were obliterated in 1993. True, a reconfigured Centre-Right eventually came back. But whereas Canada was governed in the intervening 13 years by a relatively moderate Liberal Party, we face Jezza.

I want an agreed and amicable Brexit, one that does not involve handing the EU permanent control of our trade policy, but that keeps a close and friendly relationship. If we are going to get such a deal, we need at least some MEPs to support it.

Think of it another way. Whom would you rather have in charge of the Brexit talks – Jezza or whoever takes over as Tory leader? No, I don’t know who it will be either, but I do know that, whoever it is, he or she will be more competent than an old Trot who manages to be simultaneously in favour of and against Brexit, and whose main beef with the EU is that its competition laws would prevent him from completing a Castro-style seizure of our economy.

The Prime Minister has already said she is resigning. The only question is over timing. She might be gone before 22 May, or at least be in the process of going. A leadership contest tends to give any party a poll boost, as broadcasters and other media focus on it, and as voters keep hearing its putative leaders setting out their optimistic visions.

But if you, dear ConHome reader, decide to back someone else or to boycott the poll, there may be nothing for those putative leaders to inherit.

I have spent 30 years working to restore our national independence. I’m not prepared to drop out now, not when we are so close to success. Please – give us the support we need to get the job finished.

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Henry Newman: By now we could have been out of the EU, controlling our own borders, fisheries and trade deals

Henry Newman is Director of Open Europe.

A counterfactual thought experiment: on 29th March, the Conservative Party almost all voted together for the Prime Minister’s deal. Despite their heart-felt concerns, the remaining members of the ERG were persuaded by Jacob Rees-Mogg to back the Government. On the other end of the Brexit divide, Conservative critics on the Remain side accepted that the indicative votes had shown no majority for a second referendum, and agreed to allow the country to move on. With a few additional Labour rebels, the Withdrawal Agreement just scraped a Commons majority.

Speaking in Downing Street on Friday evening, the Prime Minister set out a timetable for her departure. She reassured MPs that there was no need to hold European elections, to the delight of Daniel Hannan. The weekend’s papers showed a poll bounce towards the Conservatives, putting them in a good position to hold council seats in forthcoming local elections.

At the European Council last week, the EU agreed a short technical extension to complete ratification of the Withdrawal Bill. Brexit day was set for Friday 24th May, with an extra bank holiday on Tuesday. All European Ambassadors were invited to a service in Westminster Abbey to mark the end of 46 years of British membership. German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, are guests of honour at a gala dinner.

With Brexit secured, the People’s Vote campaign collapsed. Formal negotiations with the EU will resume after the summer, following the formation of a new European Commission and with a new British Prime Minister in place. The Labour Party has continued to press for a softer Brexit deal, but has yet to clarify its policy. Meanwhile, Heidi Allen’s Change UK advocates British re-accession to the European Union, and a new referendum. Several new defectors have joined the party from the Liberal Democrats, who had not yet committed to re-joining the EU.

The ‘Alternative Arrangements’ UK-EU Irish border working group has set out an ambitious timetable of fortnightly meetings, with an expanded cast list of relevant experts. Meanwhile, an anonymous philanthropist has donated a £100,000 prize for the most creative approach to resolving the border question. Several Californian tech companies are also hard at work on possible solutions.

Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, has published his proposed post-Brexit immigration system. With Free Movement ending by 2021, the new policy will prioritise those coming to work in education, universities or the health service, and those likely to contribute the most to our economy or society. A fast-track work visa scheme will help ensure British companies access to necessary foreign labour, but those companies doing so will need to pay a levy to support UK skills training.

The Fisheries Bill is due back in the Commons shortly. The Environment Secretary has already announced that from 2021 the UK’s Exclusive Economic Zone, extending across around a third of a million square miles of sea, will be under British control. Michael Gove has invited fishing ministers from European coastal states to a new annual fishing summit, to be held on Tyneside in early 2020. The French are threatening to boycott the summit in protest at the British refusal to grant them continued access to our fishing waters on the same basis as before.

Liam Fox spent Easter week jetting across the Pacific. Australia and New Zealand have launched working groups to develop a series of trade deals with the UK which they hope to fast-track over coming months. At a joint press conference, ministers announced they will prioritise a services trade deal, which provides unprecedented access for financial services, including retail banking and insurance, as well as new agreements on investor protection. This is designed to come into effect in 2021, whether or not the UK enters the backstop, but can be upgraded to a fuller comprehensive trade deal.

Also on the plane was Matt Hancock. The Health Secretary is pressing for a new mutual recognition of qualifications deal. The proposal is to allow Australian and New Zealand doctors and nurses to work in Britain, without having to re-qualify. At present, only doctors qualifying in the European Economic Area – from Latvia to Lichtenstein – have that automatic right.

The DUP were concerned by the passage of the Withdrawal Agreement, which they had voted against. However, they have agreed to work with the Government to implement a Stormont Lock which will come into effect if the UK enters the backstop. The Prime Minister has confirmed that the existing goods rules will be maintained in Great Britain, as well as in the Northern Ireland, for the foreseeable future. As a result, the Business Secretary has confirmed that there will be no regulatory checks required on industrial or manufactured goods moving across the Irish Sea. The Brexit Secretary has also informed Michel Barnier that, if the UK enters the backstop, the UK will by default veto all new goods regulations, only accepting those new rules it determines are in its core national interest. There was some significant protest at this decision, but the Commission’s legal team reluctantly admitted that this was the UK’s right under the Treaty.

***

Unfortunately this happy picture is a fantasy. What actually happened (of course) is that, although around 90 per cent of Tory MPs voted for the Withdrawal Agreement, about three dozen Conservatives refused to do so. As a result Brexit is profoundly at risk, and the Conservatives are taking an acute hammering in the opinion polls.

Some of the Prime Minister’s critics continue to believe they can reach their No Deal nirvana. But the last few months have shown how elusive that mirage can be. The plan seems to entail forcing the Prime Minister out, and then securing a new Conservative Leader committed to scrapping the backstop.

Advocates of this path tend to argue that Theresa May has never really tried to scrap the backstop, and if somehow [insert name of a potential Brexity party leader] just went to Brussels and told them we would not have the backstop, the EU would agree to take it out. Sadly, this is as fantastical as my thought experiment above.

Anyone promising to scrap the backstop might as well promise to take the country to No Deal. With this Parliament certain to try to block No Deal, a new leader would need to win a General Election. But even assuming that the Conservatives could secure a narrow majority – which seems a stretch at present – it’s not clear that No Deal would then be plausible. At least a couple of dozen Conservative MPs, and possibly considerably more, would resist No Deal at almost any cost.

Unless a path through can be found for the Withdrawal Agreement in the coming weeks and months, the chances of Brexit being lost entirely will only rise. So the best option, barring a rethink from the Prime Minister’s backbench critics, seems to be to broker some agreement with Labour, however unpalatable that is for many Conservatives.

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The four routes being explored to oust May

The Conservative Party is in a peculiar position when it comes to its leadership. Just about everybody agrees Theresa May ought to resign.

Indeed, even Theresa May agrees that Theresa May ought to resign, at least in principle. She just differs with the majority of her party over the timing.

And yet she is still there. The Prime Minister’s internal opponents misfired with the vote of no confidence in December, then refused to be tempted into voting for her deal by the carrot of her resignation. So we all find ourselves subject to the stick which is her continued leadership.

Under the current rules, there is no formal way for the Party leader to be ousted until 12 months have passed since the previous No Confidence ballot. But, with dire polls, deep activist discontent, a new threat in the form of the Brexit Party, and the prospect of a tough time in local and European elections very soon, few are very keen to wait so long.

Informal measures – a series of resignations, publicly breaching her most high profile promises, the open breakdown of discipline – have markedly failed to persuade May that her time is up. In the meantime, therefore, eyes have turned to the Conservative Party’s rulebook in a search for a solution.

I’m aware of four different ideas doing the rounds about what could be done.

A 1922 committee ‘indicative vote’ of no confidence

Given the innovation of indicative voting by Remainers in the Commons, some Brexiteers within the Parliamentary Conservative Party have pondered applying the same process internally. If they aren’t allowed a binding no confidence vote until December, they reason, then they could still have a non-binding vote to make the message clear. Some are reportedly already submitting letters to the Chairman of the 1922 Committee in the hope that he will communicate the scale of their dissent. The idea that this could translate into an early ‘indicative’ ballot founders not only on the quite important fact that Graham Brady has ruled it out, but also on the fact that the Prime Minister shows no sign of accepting mere advice from her critics, or even from some of her allies.

A petition of members to change the constitution

Buried within the Conservative Party’s constitution is Schedule 9, regulating the power to initiate amendments to the constitution. Such amendments can be kickstarted by the ’22 or the Party Board (both divided on the topic) or by the National Conservative Convention (which is not due to meet for months) or by a mass petition from Party members. Yes, there is at least a little bit of direct democracy in there: ‘A petition, delivered to the Chairman of the Board, signed by not less than 10,000 Party Members’ .

That is a not inconsiderable number. Even back in the late ’90s when the constitution was first composed, it was a lot – and as the Party has shrunk, that 10,000 becomes a large proportion of the membership. Nonetheless, it isn’t completely impossible, particularly in the digital age. A young Conservative activist named Soutiam Goodarzi has started a petition which has so far topped 1,000 signatures.

However, there are two issues. First, time. The rules say that if a petition is successful, it triggers a postal ballot of the Constitutional College (the Convention, plus MPs, MEPs and senior peers). But that would take place somewhere between 28 and 56 days after the petition was received. That would be too late for many people, and would still be reliant on passing a high turnout bar in the Constitutional College vote.

Second, the rule change itself. Goodarzi’s motion calls for the 12-month rule to be reduced to three months, which would effectively allow an immediate ballot. Oddly enough, the rule on confidence ballots by MPs is not in the constitution. I see no reason why Goodarzi’s petition couldn’t effectively add her version, as that would count as a change to the constitution. The rules on electing new leaders are in the constitution, so it wouldn’t be completely off-topic to make an addition. But the actual rule making repeat no confidence ballots annual – Rule Six – sits elsewhere: in the desk of the Secretary of the 1922 Committee.

Get the 1922 committee to change Rule Six

Yes, the no confidence rule is actually controlled by the ’22, and has been since the Hague-era ‘Fresh Future’ days in the late 1990s. As Archie Hamilton and Michael Spicer, both former Chairmen of the 1922 Committee, pointed out on Sunday:

‘…the 1922 Committee drew up the current rules concerning confidence votes and have thus have ownership of them… if MPs believe that this rule is an impediment to their proper function and responsibilities for the leadership of their Party it is quite within their right to change these provisions… Conservative MPs are responsible for their party. If they wish a change these rules there is nothing standing in their way.’

This sounds simpler than a 10,000 member petition, or passing a turnout bar in a ballot of the constitutional college. It is indeed simpler numerically, but not politically. The 1922 Committee executive hosts a range of opinions on the Prime Minister herself, but also reportedly last week “agreed that it was against natural justice” to change the rules as a measure to winkle May out of office.

Call an Extraordinary General Meeting of the National Convention to no confidence May (and/or change the constitution)

In Schedule 3 of the Party constitution, the Prime Minister’s critics have found their latest possible approach: ‘a petition signed by not less than sixty-five Constituency Association Chairmen’ compels there to be an Extraordinary General Meeting of the National Convention, the body officially representing the voluntary Party.

Efforts are, I’m told, underway to secure enough signatures in order to do so, so that the Convention can then vote no confidence in May. (Theoretically, such a meeting could also trigger a ballot on changing the constitution if it wished, but it would be even slower than a successful petition).

The timescales are not ideal: Convention members are guaranteed a minimum of 28 days’ notice of a meeting, in writing, and if the Party apparatus wanted to delay the event there are a myriad of ways in which they could try to do so.

Ultimately, if enough association chairmen’s signatures are gathered, and a Convention EGM is called, and that meeting votes no confidence, it’s worth wondering what would have changed. It would be another embarrassment for the Prime Minister, but she has ridden out many embarrassments before.

If rulebook warfare doesn’t work, might persuasion succeed?

Her unwillingness to take the hint is a common factor across several of the above approaches. The firmest sanctions – changing the rules to allow her to be forced out – take more time than is available, and/or run up against the unwillingness of some MPs to take part. Other approaches – submitting more letters to Brady, holding indicative votes of MPs, getting the Convention to no confidence May – might be more easily achieved, but are less forceful or binding.

Some, at least, hope that if they can heap up enough evidence of demand for her to resign – from the Party’s members, councillors, MPs, donors, institutions, voters – then the sheer weight of evidence might persuade her. That if enough people are all of one voice, she could no longer ignore the situation.

But this returns us to the fundamental stumbling block: the Prime Minister herself. Would warnings that the Convention and the ’22 were set to publicly express no confidence in her leadership carry enough weight, where so many Cabinet resignations and other brickbats have been shrugged off? Might tough election results illustrate the damage she is doing, as candidates and constituents lose out and the Opposition make gains? Or will she simply try to go on and on, regardless?

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Should Conservative MPs and members vote for the Party in the European elections (if they happen)?

The mass of Conservative polling crisis and leadership candidate stories in today’s papers raise three questions for Tory MPs and activists to ponder. Answers need to be provided by the time Parliament returns on April 23.

  • Is it possible to use, change or utilise Conservative leadership rules in order to ensure a swift challenge to Theresa May – soon after MPs return to Westminster?
  • Should Tory MPs and activists vote Conservative in the European Parliamentary elections, if these happen – and, if not, what should they do?  (We never thought it would come to having to raise this question.)
  • Should leadership election rules be changed to ensure that more than two candidates are put before members in the final stage of a contest?

Finding solutions that work for the country and the Party will not be easy, but one point is clear: the Prime Minister has to go, and the sooner the better. We will offer our own ideas over the coming Easter period.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Polls, Brexit postponed – and the slump of the Conservative vote

The most recent opinion poll results that we can find are as follows:

BMG research – April 11

Conservatives: 27 per cent (- 8).

Labour: 31 per cent (no change).

Liberal Democrats: 8 per cent (- 2).

UKIP: 7 per cent (+ 1).

Change UK: 8 per cent (+ 3).

Brexit Party: 6 per cent.

Other: 10 per cent (- 1).

Hanbury Strategy – April 10. For European Parliamentary elections.

Conservatives: 23 per cent

Labour: 38 per cent.

Liberal Democrats: 8 per cent.

UKIP: 8 per cent.

Change UK: 4 per cent.

Brexit Party: 10 per cent.

Green Party: 4  per cent.

SNP: 4 per cent.

Deltapoll – March 31

Conservatives: 36 per cent.

Labour: 41 per cent.

Liberal Democrats: 7 per cent.

UKIP: 7 per cent.

Green Party: 3 per cent.

SNP: 3 per cent.

Plaid Cymru: 1 per cent.

Other: 3 per cent

Now these results don’t compare like with like.  In the last case, we’ve been unable to find results showing changing share.  In the middle one, the polling refers to European Parliamentary elections.  And there are bound to be other national polls that we’ve missed.

None the less, we have three results with the Conservative share at under 40 per cent.

The period immediately before the earliest one saw the run-up to the last “meaningful vote”, including a round of indicative votes (on March 27) and Theresa May’s original letter requesting extension (March 20).

Evidently, a significant slice of the Tory vote is being taken by UKIP/the Brexit Party, and a smaller share perhaps by Change UK.

We seem to be heading back towards where British politics was between 2005 and 2015: in other words, towards more of a three or four or perhaps more party system, with its effects perhaps constrained by first past the post in Parliamentary elections.

Two factors related to Brexit are central.

The first is reaction against it, of which Change UK is a beneficiary, and the other is for it, and against the failure to deliver it.  The future prospects of UKIP and the new parties will be constrained by how many candidates they can find for elections.

That will be less of a factor in a European Parliamentary poll, if one at all, though it will count a bit in the local elections next month.

Since the October extension is neither long nor short, it is most likely to offer the status quo – namely, a drift towards control by the legislature of the Commons timetable, if May’s deal isn’t passed (and whether or not she is forced out).

A new Tory leader would doubtless come with a new Brexit plan, but wouldn’t have the numbers in the Commons for change.

He or she would thus be pushed towards an autumn election, while pro-second referendum MPs agitated in Parliament for another vote.  The timetable is very tight for either.  We face Brexit stasis.

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Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: May is as brave as Boycott, and her deal will go through

Theresa May’s tenacity is awe-inspiring. She looks white with tiredness, but is still there. Her ability to stay at the crease is worthy of her hero, Geoffrey Boycott.

The last time I wrote something like that, I received a pained but authoritative email from Richard Tomlinson, author of Amazing Grace: The Man Who was W.G.

Tomlinson pointed out that Boycott was “in everyone’s opinion apart from his own the worst Yorkshire captain since the Second World War”.

Many people say Theresa May is the worst Prime Minister since Lord North, or at least since Anthony Eden.

But it is too early to tell. We do not know how her prime ministership will end.

Sir William Cash (Con, Stone) accused her of “abject surrender” in Brussels last night, and demanded: “Will she resign?”

“I think he knows the answer to that,” the Prime Minister replied.

She received quite a lot of support from her own side. Sir Oliver Heald (Con, North East Hertfordshire) encouraged her to “keep going”.

Sarah Newton (Con, Truro and Falmouth) told her to “ignore the bullies on our backbenches”.

And at the end of almost two hours, Charles Walker (Con, Broxbourne) urged her to get some rest over Easter, and to tell the Chief Whip to “have a few solid 12-hour sleeps as well”.

Mark Francois (Con. Rayleigh and Wickford), like Cash an irreconcilable critic of her deal, informed her that “perseverance is a virtue but sheer obstinacy is not”.

A wave of laughter broke over Francois. For the sheer obstinacy with which he has opposed her deal has equalled the sheer obstinacy with which she has promoted it.

It is not clear how the deadlock is going to be broken. But there were some encouraging words from the Opposition benches for the Prime Minister.

Admittedly, most of the people uttering the encouragement demanded, as the price of voting for her deal, a second referendum. But her studied moderation, her good manners, and her difficulties with Cash, Francois, Steve Baker and others, are starting to produce a degree of sympathy for her, and a sense that getting her deal through might be less bad than holding European elections in which the two main parties do extremely badly and the disreputable extremists have a field day.

Tomlinson points out that Boycott “was dropped by England for slow scoring after making his highest-ever Test match score – 246 v India in 1967.”

May knows she going to be dropped by the Conservatives, but if she can get her deal through, she too will have made her highest ever score, and will have done it by being as brave and dull as her hero.

Before going in to the Chamber, I read a report that “Tory strife” has reached “boiling point”. That was not how it felt during these lukewarm proceedings. The irreconcilables were outnumbered by weary MPs who just want this stage of Brexit to be over.

I shall risk a prediction. Although watching her is as unbearable as watching Boycott on a slow day, her deal will go through.

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Antoinette Sandbach: Duplicitous and disloyal. That’s the Britain that those who praise a Perfidious Albion would bring into being.

Antoinette Sandbach is the Conservative MP for Eddisbury, a member of the BEIS Select Committee and a member of the Executive of the 1922 Committee

As a woman who had a legal career before entering into politics, I’ve always been guided by two principles – you need to recognise the realities of the situation you find yourself in, and if you don’t ask, you won’t get.

Currently in Parliament there are a number of colleagues and the DUP calling on the Government to simply keep on demanding for the backstop to be removed. After all, if you don’t ask you don’t get. However, this fundamentally misunderstands the reality of our negotiating position.

We stand at the precipice of a No Deal Brexit. Continuing our brinksmanship will not see concessions from the EU, it will simply see us tumble into the abyss. The EU has been clear throughout that it will not reopen the withdrawal agreement containing the backstop. If you look at it from their perspective, why would they? The backstop is their guarantee that the UK will act in good faith in the future. Every time some of my colleagues are promising to cause chaos to get our way – deliberately invoking the image of “perfidious Albion” – the EU is incentivised to cling tighter and tighter to the backstop.

It seems strange to me that those who love our country would invoke the idea of a duplicitous and disloyal Britain. The Britain I am proud of is one where our word is our bond and we always deliver our end of the bargain. I fear this image of Britain as a calm, predictable home of prosperity has taken a beating in the last few years, but nothing will destroy what is left of our reputation more quickly than those who aspire to lead us openly musing on reneging on this country’s commitments.

It would destroy any sense of goodwill left with the EU, but perhaps worse for their own ambitions, why would any other country strike a trade deal with the UK having witnessed our behaviour towards our closest allies and partners in the EU.

I often think we forget that the EU leaders can read British newspapers. We must not forget that our potential trade partners around the world can do so as well and will be increasingly concerned by what they read. This brinksmanship is not just threatening our proposed withdrawal agreement with the EU but also the future deals which those engaging in this behaviour are so determined to secure.

We must be frank and recognise that some of those who take this stance do so deliberately, to increase the chances of No Deal – though I maintain that this position is a rarity amongst Conservative MPs. To the minds of those few who want to go WTO, we will be out of the EU and free of any entanglements or restrictions. We will be free to strike a couple of ‘mini-deals’ with the EU to avoid the worst impacts of No Deal – perhaps ensuring that customs processes continue and that we can continue to trade unimpeded. We would then set out on a new buccaneering course without the interference of the EU, and we’d save £39 billion into the bargain.

This is the so-called ‘managed No Deal’ scenario where, having walked out on the deal and burned our bridges with the EU, they immediately agree to sit down to discuss with us how to avoid the worst consequences of our walking out on the deal. This strikes me as unlikely and even should it happen, we would be negotiating from a fundamentally weak position.

Unfortunately, the EU has been clear that any negotiation of a free trade agreement or discussions to mitigate the impact of No Deal would be contingent on the UK making commitments to pay what it owes – the £39 billion – to guarantee citizens’ rights and to sign up to the backstop as a guarantee for Ireland should negotiations fail. Only once these have been agreed can we enter into talks. Those that advocate No Deal brinksmanship would see us potentially suffer the chaos of a No Deal exit only then to be forced to the table to be faced with the same questions we are currently dealing with in Parliament, and having lost all good will from the EU.

Those talking tough now learned the wrong lesson from Margaret Thatcher. Every bold statement or robust position she took on the EU was backed up by months of patient diplomacy, compromise and patience. When she stood up to the EU it was because quiet diplomacy has not worked and she had taken a realistic assessment of her position based on the facts. I fear some of those who seek to emulate her today do so not for the benefit of our country but to signal their ‘soundness’ to colleagues and their Associations.

For Thatcher – a scientist – everything was based on the facts. Today we have allowed ourselves to become enveloped in a world of alternative, competing facts. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion, the facts of our debate should be immutable. The facts as I see them are plain. No Deal is bad for Britain and worse than the deal on offer. No Deal weakens our negotiating position and will scare away any new partners – as well as alienating the EU. The only way out of the backstop is to supersede it; No Deal will not solve it.

Given these facts, we must recognise that this megaphone diplomacy of threats and brinksmanship made to please a domestic audience is doing us far more harm than good. We must recognise our vote to leave was a vote on our membership of the EU institutions and not a vote on the form of our future relationship. Our manifesto committed us to a deep and special partnership with the EU. Therefore, in order to deliver on the Brexit vote we must cut the brinksmanship, recognise the reality of our position and pass the deal through Parliament to get us out of the EU in a way that doesn’t trash our reputation as the best place in the world to trade and do business.

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WATCH: What she said then. March 20 – “As Prime Minister, I am not prepared to delay Brexit any further than the 20th of June.”

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