Top Tory says May ‘hand­ing power to EU’ in Brexit deal

Ex-min­is­ter slams ‘sovereignty give­away’ Brex­iters echo claim by Jus­tine Green­ing

The Observer - - Front Page - Toby Helm & Michael Sav­age

Theresa May was ac­cused last night by a for­mer cabi­net col­league of plan­ning the “big­gest give­away of sovereignty in mod­ern times”, as she faced a po­ten­tially devastating pin­cer move­ment from Tory Re­main­ers and Leavers con­demn­ing her Brexit plans.

The day af­ter Jo John­son, the proRe­main brother of for­mer for­eign sec­re­tary Boris John­son, re­signed from the govern­ment and called for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum on Brexit, for­mer ed­u­ca­tion sec­re­tary Jus­tine Green­ing launched an at­tack on the prime min­is­ter, say­ing her plans would leave the coun­try in the “worst of all worlds”.

Pil­ing yet more pressure on May, Green­ing – who re­signed from the cabi­net in Jan­uary – backed the for­mer trans­port min­is­ter’s call for an­other pub­lic vote and said MPs should re­ject the prime min­is­ter’s deal. Green­ing told the Ob­server: “The par­lia­men­tary deadlock has been clear for some time. It’s cru­cial now for par­lia­ment to vote down this plan, be­cause it is the big­gest give­away of sovereignty in mod­ern times.

“In­stead, the govern­ment and par­lia­ment must recog­nise we should give peo­ple a fi­nal say on Brexit. Only they can break the deadlock.”

Green­ing added: “Like many of us, Jo John­son is a prag­ma­tist on Bri­tain’s re­la­tion­ship with the EU. But Con­ser­va­tive MPs can in­creas­ingly see that this sovereignty give­away from No 10 leaves our coun­try with less say over rules that gov­ern

our lives … That is the worst of all worlds and it re­solves noth­ing.”

Her in­ter­ven­tion – just days be­fore May hopes to win agree­ment for her plans in her deeply di­vided cabi­net – shows how Tories on both sides of the di­vide are find­ing com­mon cause, protest­ing that her blue­print would leave the UK tied to the EU’s eco­nomic sys­tems but with no say over the rules.

A let­ter to the prime min­is­ter, or­gan­ised by the Stand Up 4 Brexit cam­paign and cir­cu­lated among Tory party con­stituency chairs, seen by the

Ob­server, states that May’s pro­pos­als rep­re­sent a “sig­nif­i­cant blow to our sovereignty”.

It says that an agree­ment that would leave Bri­tain “trapped in a cus­toms union with the EU in­def­i­nitely”, as cur­rent plans could do, would “fly in the face of the ref­er­en­dum re­sult” and risk “de­liv­er­ing a Cor­byn govern­ment at the next elec­tion”.

The let­ter goes on: “As Con­ser­va­tive chair­men, we there­fore call on you … to en­sure that the fi­nal deal com­plies with those red lines that you set out in both the 2017 elec­tion man­i­festo and your Lan­caster House speech – namely leav­ing the cus­toms union, the sin­gle mar­ket and ECJ over-all.”

In his state­ment on Fri­day, Jo John­son said the coun­try was “on the brink of the great­est cri­sis” since the sec­ond world war and ar­gued that the Brexit deal on of­fer wasn’t “any­thing like what was promised”.

Yes­ter­day, speak­ing on BBC Ra­dio 4’s To­day pro­gramme, he went fur­ther, say­ing an­other ref­er­en­dum would be the first op­por­tu­nity for vot­ers to have a say on what Brexit would ac­tu­ally mean, af­ter two years of tor­tu­ous ne­go­ti­a­tions. “My view is that this is so dif­fer­ent from what was billed that it would be an ab­so­lute trav­esty if we do not go back to the peo­ple and ask them if they ac­tu­ally do want to exit the EU on this ex­traor­di­nar­ily hope­less ba­sis,” he said.

Asked whether he be­lieved other min­is­ters should quit over the is­sue, he en­cour­aged them to do so if they shared his views.

One Tory donor warned last night that May was now head­ing to­wards an “ex­plo­sion” with her own party. “She made in­com­pat­i­ble prom­ises to dif­fer­ent con­stituen­cies,” he said. “An ex­plo­sion is now the best fore­cast.”

Cam­paign­ers for a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum claim that sup­port for an­other vote is grow­ing. The pro-Re­main Best for Bri­tain group said that, for the first time, a poll showed a ma­jor­ity of Leave vot­ers now backed a sec-

ond vote. The Pop­u­lus poll found 52% of those that voted leave now sup­port a fi­nal say on the Brexit deal.

Mean­while, Labour leader Jeremy Cor­byn has come un­der pressure from some of his own MPs for say­ing that “we can’t stop” Brexit, just two months af­ter he in­sisted “all op­tions are on the ta­ble”, and shadow Brexit sec­re­tary Keir Starmer said a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum with the op­tion to re­main should be kept open. Many Labour MPs say that if Cor­byn were to back a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum, there would be a ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment to hold one.

In an in­ter­view with Der Spiegel on Fri­day, Cor­byn said it was nec­es­sary to “recog­nise the rea­sons why peo­ple voted leave”. Lu­ciana Berger, Mike Gapes, Wes Street­ing and Chuka Umunna were among the Labour MPs to crit­i­cise the re­marks, as a row brews in the party over whether it should back a sec­ond poll if May’s deal were voted down in par­lia­ment.

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