Dominic Raab has said that Theresa May’s position would become “precarious” if she were to lose the meaningful vote on the Brexit deal, and said she should “think again” about her withdrawal agreement if is defeated on December 11.
The former Brexit secretary rebuffed Julia Hartley-Brewer’s suggestions that he may have to vote against the Prime Minister if a vote of no confidence was triggered, saying: “I want to support this government and support the Prime Minister in getting a good deal over the line.”
Theresa May is facing fresh challenges this week after calls to release the full legal advice pertaining to the Brexit deal, after a motion was passed in Commons in favour of its publication.
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The Labour party have threatened to write to Speaker John Bercow to trigger contempt of parliament proceedings if it is not published.
Hartley-Brewer asked Mr Raab if he had seen the advice.
“Yes I have,” he said. “It’s very clear… I came, as a former international lawyer, to the same conclusion independently.
“So I think what would be certainly very useful is if the substantive advice is published, or near, with anything redacted for whatever reason.
“The independent view I came to is that we’re in the backstop indefinitely until we agree with the EU the future relationship, which means they have a veto, or until they decide to let us out. I think it will be useful in one shape or another to confirm that this is the case.”
The withdrawal agreement. Image: Getty
Mr Raab said he pushed during his time as Brexit secretary for an “exit mechanism” to avoid being trapped in the customs union as a result of the backstop.
“I argued during my tenure as Brexit secretary for an exit mechanism, so we didn’t get trapped in this indefinite limbo,” he said.
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“It’s crucial to the acceptability of any deal that we know what the endgame looks like.”
“If she’s got this legal advice from the Attorney General that we’ll be trapped in and can’t unilaterally leave - which some would say is a worse position than we’re in now - and the advice from Olly Robbins [that the backstop would be] a ‘bad outcome’... why does the Prime Minister think it’s a good deal?” asked Hartley-Brewer.
“I think as someone who’s made it clear I’m going to vote against the deal and the meaningful vote, it’s fair to let her answer that in her own words,” Mr Raab responded.
'I want to support the Prime Minister'
Asked how he’d vote if Labour triggered a vote of no confidence and the prospect of a DUP rebellion, Mr Raab was cagey.
“It’s slightly hypothetical at this stage, but I want to support this government and support the Prime Minister in getting a good deal over the line,” he said.
“I will vote against the meaningful vote, I think then there is an opportunity for the Prime Minister to think again.
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“What we should do is make a best final offer to the EU, which involves dealing with those issues we talked about like the backstop, making sure the future relationship is a free trade agreement - not some version of the customs union or single market - and I think we could achieve that and the EU ought to be amenable to that.
“But if they’re not, we should be willing to walk away… the long term risk of this deal is it would have a debilitating effect on the economy in the long term, and also the trust in democracy by not giving effect the referendum, will be shredded.”
“But the Prime Minister is not willing to walk away, neither is the Chancellor,” said Hartley-Brewer. “If that is the choice, it’s between this withdrawal agreement or getting long-term deal, you’ll have to ditch the Prime Minister.”
“I don’t think that’s necessarily true, but if she fails the meaningful vote she should think again,” said Mr Raab.
“I think her position will become more precarious, you’ll see the game slipping away from the government if they lose the meaningful vote substantially and don’t have an alternative.
“Bear in mind that we all went to the last election vowing to come out of the customs union and the single market, so the idea that we would slip into those sorts of arrangements - which is what some of those on the Remain side are advocating - would be another breach of trust of the electorate.
“I think that would be incredibly damaging on all sides.”
'Groundswell of discontent'
Theresa May faces a fresh challenge over calls to release the legal advice around the Brexit deal. Image: Getty
More resignations, and perhaps more letters of no confidence handed to Sir Graham Brady, were “a very real risk,” said Mr Raab
“I want to try and avoid that because I want this Prime Minister to make a success of her premiership and a success of Brexit,” he added.
“But at some point there will be a risk that the groundswell of discontent with the position reaches boiling point. We need to try and avoid that.
“It’ll be really important with the legal advice for the public to get a very clear view of what the risks are.
“I don’t think all the details have been unpacked for the public in a way which is comprehensible, and I think they will swing round behind a Prime Minister who takes a resolute approach, doesn’t want to be bullied by the EU, stands up for the UK’s long term interest.”