PM ad­mits ‘we’ll need a rule book’ in con­ver­sa­tion with grass­roots mem­bers

The Sunday Telegraph - - Brexit Turmoil - By Ed­ward Mal­nick

THERESA MAY in­sisted she would plough on with her con­tro­ver­sial plans for a “com­mon rule book” with the EU dur­ing a con­fer­ence call with Tory con­stituency chair­men.

A leaked record­ing of the Fri­day af­ter­noon phone call, ob­tained by The Sun­day Tele­graph, re­veals that Mrs May went much fur­ther in de­fend­ing the com­mon rule book in pri­vate than she had done in pub­lic the day be­fore.

Last Thurs­day, Mrs May was asked in the Com­mons whether the Brexit deal would in­clude pro­vi­sion for a com­mon rule book gov­ern­ing trade, and skirted round the is­sue in her an­swer.

But on Fri­day she said that a com­mon rule book would in­deed be nec­es­sary to en­sure Bri­tain and the EU were oper­at­ing to “the same stan­dards and the same rules”.

Here are ex­tracts of the ex­changes be­tween as­so­ci­a­tion chair­men and Mrs May:

Q

What are the ac­tual chances of no Brexit hap­pen­ing? I voted to leave the EU be­cause I wanted us to be a sov­er­eign state again. Could you put our wor­ries at bay about the fact there’s no Brexit?

A

The rea­son I raised that ref­er­ence in my state­ment on Wed­nes­day to the risk of no Brexit is be­cause we do see a num­ber of MPs talk­ing about pos­si­bly hav­ing a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum or that sort of thing. We said to the peo­ple in the coun­try please choose whether or not to stay in the EU, they chose to leave. It’s our duty as a gov­ern­ment and as politi­cians … to de­liver on that and to make sure that we do leave. As far as I’m con­cerned we’re leav­ing … March 29, 2019.

Q

Prime Min­is­ter, I think it is right that peo­ple are con­cerned that the dual agree­ment is quite un­bal­anced and that the pos­si­bil­ity ex­ists that we can­not exit the back­stop without EU con­sent. But I won­der, were there much more de­tail on the fu­ture frame­work and were that to be based on mu­tual recog­ni­tion rather than the com­mon rule book pro­posed un­der Che­quers, whether that might ac­tu­ally make a lot of those con­cerns go away?

A

One of the clear mes­sages from busi­nesses is the im­por­tance of hav­ing fric­tion­less trade across the bor­der. In or­der to have that fric­tion­less trade you need to en­sure that the goods that are cross­ing the bor­der don’t need to be checked. That means that you’re oper­at­ing to the same stan­dards and to the same rules, and that’s where the com­mon rule book comes in. If this hap­pens – this com­mon rule book – it will be lim­ited. Our man­u­fac­tur­ers tell us they will abide by these rules any­way be­cause they have to in or­der to sell their prod­ucts into the EU. Par­lia­ment would have a lock on that. So if the EU changed a rule, Par­lia­ment would be able to de­cide whether or not the UK would ac­cept that change.

Q

Can we rely on your deal to en­sure that we re­ally do have au­ton­omy within our le­gal sys­tem?

A

These are two par­ties com­ing to­gether mak­ing this agree­ment, you can’t have the court of one party rul­ing over the other party. We’ve put in a set of gov­er­nance that does not in­volve that ju­ris­dic­tion of the Euro­pean Court of Jus­tice.

Q

If we get the deal through Par­lia­ment, will we be able to ne­go­ti­ate our own trade deals?

A

We will be able to ne­go­ti­ate our own trade deals. Now I’ll be per­fectly hon­est with you, of course in ne­go­ti­at­ing those trade deals there will be is­sues [ …] We will have to take some de­ci­sions about var­i­ous ar­eas par­tic­u­larly on agri­cul­tural prod­ucts for those trade deals. If we’re in a com­mon rule book with the EU that is an area of slight re­stric­tion for us, but we will be able to ne­go­ti­ate trade deals.

Q

This is an­other hearts and minds ques­tion rather than around the de­tail of the pol­icy. The peo­ple up here who are not in­ter­ested in pol­i­tics or bored with it all have got some sim­ple yard­sticks of how good a pol­icy is. Fish­ing is one of these. So ba­si­cally get­ting back con­trol of our fish­eries is a totem. Can [you] show us that [fish­ing] won’t be thrown away in the ne­go­ti­a­tions be­cause the mem­bers here are not con­fi­dent at the mo­ment that this won’t hap­pen.

A

Fish­ing is one of the ar­eas where [the EU have] tried to take rather more of a role than we want – and we have pushed back on that and we will con­tinue to push back on that be­cause I re­alise the im­por­tance this has to many peo­ple around the coun­try.

Q

If the par­lia­men­tary vote goes against us, can you rene­go­ti­ate, are you pre­pared to rene­go­ti­ate, or are you say­ing there’s no prospect the EU will rene­go­ti­ate at all with us?

A

I think there’s been one or two state­ments com­ing out of Europe over the last cou­ple of days that has ba­si­cally given the mes­sage that there would be no rene­go­ti­a­tion. That this is the deal that the UK has ne­go­ti­ated with them. And I’m tempted to say that even if there was a pos­si­bil­ity of rene­go­ti­a­tion, I don’t think they’d give us a bet­ter deal.

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