Ex-ministers urge Tories to reject May’s deal
Former Cabinet members write joint letter to every Conservative MP insisting WTO is the way forward
A DOZEN former Conservative ministers including Boris Johnson, David Davis and Dominic Raab are today urging Tory MPS to vote down Theresa May’s deal and leave the European Union on World Trade Organisation terms.
The group – including eight of Theresa May’s former Cabinet colleagues – urges the Prime Minister to have one last go at persuading the EU to drop the Irish backstop that threatens to keep the UK in the customs union indefinitely.
The news came as Tory MPS will today raise concerns about a secretive committee run by unelected officials with the power to write new laws affecting Britons for years after Brexit as a result of Mrs May’s deal.
A group of farmers who export hundreds of millions of pounds’ worth of agricultural produce to and from the EU warn in a letter to today’s Daily Telegraph that Mrs May’s deal could leave the UK “in limbo for many, many years with damaging uncertainty”.
Separately, Stuart Wheeler, the spread-betting millionaire, warned that if Tory rebels prevented Brexit, “they will have gone a very long way towards putting Mr Corbyn into Downing Street, perhaps within weeks, not to mention losing their own seats”.
In the joint letter to every Conservative MP, seen by The Telegraph, the former Conservative ministers – including Esther Mcvey and Priti Patel – say that the UK has to be ready to leave without a deal on World Trade Organisation (WTO) terms.
They say: “We must have the confidence to be ready to leave on WTO terms. A managed WTO Brexit may give rise to some short-term inconvenience and disruption, but the much greater risks arise from being locked into a very bad deal.
“A managed WTO Brexit will end business and political uncertainty more quickly than any other option. It also saves much of the £39billion, which can be spent to support the UK economy, business, and consumers instead.”
They add: “It is right to vote down this bad deal and that in doing so we will unlock a better future for our party, our country and its people.
“It will not lead to no Brexit or to an early general election. Indeed, it would be by agreeing to this punitive and highly one-sided deal that we would do most damage to the Conservative Party’s prospects at the next election.”
Senior backbench Tories will today set out concerns about the scale of powers handed to a joint committee that will settle disputes between the UK and EU after March 29 as part of the Withdrawal Agreement.
The committee can be chaired by two unelected civil servants, who can meet or even correspond in secret to make “binding decisions” on the UK and EU, the agreement says.
In an annex at the back of the 585page treaty, it explains that meetings can happen as little as once a year while legally binding decisions can be taken simply by an “exchange of notes” between the two co-chairmen.
Martin Howe QC, a leading expert in EU law, told The Telegraph: “The Withdrawal Agreement contains a presumption of secrecy regarding the
‘We must have the confidence to be ready to leave on World Trade Organisation terms’
proceedings of the Joint Committee.
“Unless Parliament were to legislate to constrict or control the activities of the UK representative on the Joint Committee, a civil servant could wield very substantial legislative powers without oversight from Parliament. This is a matter of great concern.”
Mark Francois, vice-chairman of the ERG, said: “Under this agreement Martin Selmayr, the general secretary of the Commission, and Olly Robbins, Mrs May’s chief EU negotiator, could potentially exchange two letters which would override Parliament and compel them under Article 166 to change the law.”
Meanwhile Ben Wallace, a Home Office minister, accused a former head of MI6 and an ex-head of the military of “spouting hot air” over their fears that Theresa May’s Brexit deal will threaten national security.
Mr Wallace said that it was a “fundamental mistake to claim that the agreement in any way subordinates” the UK to the European Union after Brexit.
He was reacting to a letter sent by Sir Richard Dearlove, a former head of the Secret Intelligence Service, and Lord Guthrie of Craigiebank, a former chief of defence staff, to Conservative party chairmen last week.
Writing in today’s Daily Telegraph, Mr Wallace said: “It is a fundamental mistake to claim that the agreement in any way subordinates us to any EU defence or intelligence structures.”