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

The Daily Telegraph - - Countdown To Brexit - By Christo­pher Hope CHIEF PO­LIT­I­CAL COR­RE­SPON­DENT

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.”

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