Former Brexit secretary David Davis warned Tory MPs on Tuesday against accepting Theresa May’s Chequers deal, and his former special adviser Stewart Jackson has voiced his support, hinting that there are up to 50 Tory rebels poised to oppose Chequers.
In a letter, Davis said a deal based on Theresa May's Chequers plan would deliver "none of the benefits of Brexit" and reduce the UK to being "a rule-taker from Brussels".
Davis resigned as Brexit secretary in July over his opposition to Chequers.
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Joining Julia Hartley-Brewer on the talkRADIO breakfast show, Jackson agreed with his old boss.
“I think he is [right].If we don’t take note of the dire unpopularity of the proposal that the Prime Minister made at Chequers which is Brexit in name only, I think people will conclude that we haven’t really left the European Union,” he said, adding that it was a “faux Brexit that will see as tied to the common rule book” that would cost taxpayers £39 billion and “stymie” opportunities to strike free trade deals.
'It's up to the cabinet'
MP for Wycombe Steve Baker, a member of Jacob Rees-Mogg’s eurosceptic European Research Group, warned on Tuesday that “nearly 80” rebel Tories planned to oppose Chequers, and Jackson hinted at similar.
“This idea that a cabinet minister was telling journalists yesterday that there are only ten rebels that are going to vote down Chequers, there are five times that many,” he said.
“It’s up to the cabinet to try and persuade the Prime Minister that there is a third way, that she enunciated at Mansion house, it’s a Canada Plus deal. If we can sort the [backstop], Tusk, Barnier and others have said we can talk a comprehensive free trade deal. That is within our grasp if the Prime Minister had the imagination and versatility to grasp it.”
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Jackson added the Irish border issue was being “used as a political tool”.
“I was involved with the Article 50 negotiations with David Davis, and it pains me to see the way the Irish backstop is being used as a political tool for the European Union to force the UK to remain in the customs union,” he said.
No deal 'would be fractious for a while'
Jackson said it was a "myth" that the government's technical notices, which outlined solutions in the event of the Chequers deal not being accepted, were no deal planning.
"It's a myth that there's been no deal planning, it’s to move to WTO schedules, which is what 120-odd countries in the world do perfectly well," he said, but conceded that a no deal situation could be "fractious".
"If it happened, it would be manageable, there would be contingency plans.
"You can’t mitigate unilateral action from third parties such as the French - if they wanted to be difficult with dockets and passports and pallets, it would be quite fractious for a while but ultimately would backfire on the French economy.
"No deal or a difficult or disorganised exit - which isn’t optimal and I don’t support it - would rebound both on the EU and the UK."