After an away day at Chequers on Friday, the Cabinet has finally agreed on a compromise approach for negotiating the UK’s future Brexit deal. The proposals include a ‘free trade area for goods’, a joint institutional framework for the European Court of Justice and a ‘common rulebook’ to maintain high regulatory standards in a variety of areas. Environment Secretary Michael Gove, a prominent member of the official Leave Campaign, joined Andrew Marr to express why he felt his fellow Conservatives should now back the government’s new strategy:
AM: Is your message to those colleagues wondering about what to do next – ‘This isn’t perfect… but it is by far the best we can possibly get now’?
MG: Yes. Critically, we have got to ensure that this country leaves the European Union in March 2019… All those of us who believe that we want to execute a proper Brexit, and one that is the best deal for Britain, have an opportunity now to get behind the Prime Minister in order to negotiate that deal.
Gove told Marr: ‘I’m a realist and one of the things about politics is you mustn’t, you shouldn’t, make the perfect the enemy of the good.’ Keeping the possibility of no deal alive, Gove went on: ‘We are being generous to the EU, we are showing flexibility. If the EU is not generous and flexible, then we may have to contemplate walking away without a deal’, adding that ‘No one wants to walks away now because we are in the middle of a negotiation. What we need to be able to do is to walk away in March 2019’. Gove also denied any knowledge of working with the group ‘BeLeave’ during the referendum or any suggestion that he might have broken electoral law in doing so.
Keir Starmer – Labour will not back May’s Chequers plan
Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer was also present to give his verdict on the Cabinet’s latest agreement. Starmer declined to endorse the Chequers plan, thereby making life for the Prime Minister much more difficult ahead of any vote in the House of Commons on the government’s final deal:
AM: If the opposition said ‘Do you know what? It’s quite close to what we think. We will back you in these talks’, [Theresa May] would be in a much much stronger position with Brussels.
KS: She hasn’t met our demands. We’ve been clear, you need a comprehensive customs union and you need a single market deal with shared institutions, shared regulation. She’s come up with a fudge on customs. It is a fudge. It’s going to unravel. She’s going to have to think again.
AM: …If you bring this down in the House of Commons… then you drive this country closer to the very thing you have said would be completely intolerable… which is no deal.
KS: No deal is intolerable, [but] what we can’t say is that this fudge is therefore good enough. It’s not going to last.
When asked if Labour would seek to ensure preferential immigration terms for EU citizens after Brexit, Starmer said ‘I accept the principle that if you want the right deal with the EU – and we do – that is going to involve preferential treatment for EU citizens’. On an unrelated topic, the Labour party adopted a new code of conduct on anti-Semitism on Thursday, but stopped short of endorsing the internationally accepted definition. Starmer told Marr that the party should ‘reflect on what’s been said in the last few days and if we are not in a position of supporting the full definition we need to get into that position and sharpish’.
Bill Cash – ‘There is a great deal of concern’ about Chequers deal
Veteran eurosceptic Bill Cash has taken to Sky’s studios to signal his disapproval at the Chequers’s deal. The long time Chair of Parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee opined to Niall Paterson that he would be conducting a ‘thorough analysis’ of the government’s proposals:
“There’s a lot of unhappiness… is this going to be a proper Brexit?” says Tory euro-sceptic MP Bill Cash on whether Theresa May's position is any more secure since Chequers #Ridge pic.twitter.com/1gNjHRhshx
— Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) July 8, 2018
NP: Is Theresa May’s position today any more or less secure after what’s emerged from Chequers?
BC: There are a lot of questions… there is a lot of unhappiness. There is a great deal of concern that we’re saying… ‘It’s not just to be or not to be, it’s to leave or not to leave’. The question is ‘How do you leave, and is this going to be a proper Brexit?’ And there will be a massive discussion about all this… We’re going to do a thorough analysis and we’ll put it to the cabinet and to the British people.
Cash denied writing a letter to the influential 1922 Committee calling for the Prime Minister to step down, telling Paterson ‘I’m certainly not saying anything of the kind’. He said instead that ‘One of the biggest mistakes that was made in my opinion from the beginning, was accepting the EU guidelines as being the basis upon which we would negotiate’.
Barry Gardiner – Labour ‘absolutely’ does not support a second referendum
The Shadow International Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner has told Sarah Smith that, despite calls from figures such as Labour grandee Peter Mandelson and the union Unite, his party is still opposed to the idea of a ‘people’s vote’ on the government’s final Brexit deal:
— BBC Daily Politics and Sunday Politics (@daily_politics) July 8, 2018
SS: Might Labour ever adopt [a ‘people’s vote’] as a policy?
BG: It is absolutely not our policy… Let me try and explain why… The point is that actually democracy matters… We went out to people’s doorsteps and we said ‘What you say on Thursday is going to determine the future of our country for the next 40 years’. Now, I don’t believe on a point of principle that we should undermine that democratic accountability. I think if we do, politics and politicians in this country will bear an enormous price. We will have turned round, patted people on the head and said ‘There there, you got it wrong but don’t worry we’ll fix it’.
Gardiner also cautioned against what a second vote would mean for businesses, saying that additional uncertainty would be ‘thrown into the future’. He also poured scorn on the government’s Chequers deal, redeploying a favourite phrase and arguing ‘If you are paying tribute, if you are not having any say … that is a classic definition of what a vassal state would be’.
Justine Greening – England did not beat Sweden by arguing with each other
And finally, the former Education Secretary Justine Greening has also called for Conservatives to rally round the Prime Minister’s Chequers deal, invoking England’s success in the FIFA World Cup. Here’s what she told John Pienaar on Pienaar’s Politics:
JG: We need to stick together as a party, get behind the prime minister and try and make sure that we support her as she goes through what are going to be monumentally difficult negotiations with the EU. England would not have won last night if we’d been on the pitch, arguing with one another. It’s about a team working on one plan, and the time for arguments within that Cabinet team has now got to stop.