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Suella Braverman MP, tells BfB why Brexit is a liberation from a failing EU economy

Suella Braverman, the Conservative MP for Fareham, is one of the eight ERG Star Chamber of lawyers who will supervise and report back on any change the Attorney General, Geoffrey Cox, secures on the Northern Ireland backstop.

So what kind of compromise will she be looking for?

In this exclusive B4B podcast Braverman spells out her key tests for what has been termed the “Cox’s codpiece”. She believes Cox still has a chance of securing an amendment of some kind possibly a treaty level clause that overrides the backstop, and which provides a clear route out of the backstop.

“We have set out three tests. We want a clearly worded legally binding mechanism. We want language which doesn’t simply re-emphasise the intention that the backstop is temporary but actually does unambiguously bring it to an end.  That is in the light of the Attorney General’s previous advice which confirmed that the backstop could endure indefinitely which would be unacceptable. And we want a clear way out of the backstop. It is very difficult for me to pre-judge what we are going to see. There’s lots of speculation in the media about what Geoffrey Cox is or isn’t asking for but I don’t take all of that seriously. Hearsay and speculation is not helpful at this stage. I am very hopeful that the Attorney General will be successful in his endeavours and he clearly knows what is needed, but we have set out our tests, and whatever he comes back with will be very closely scrutinised by everyone but also by the lawyers within the ERG.”

Braverman says there is a lot of “goodwill and flexibility” on what Cox may come back with, but that any agreement will come down to what will be the legalities of such an International Treaty. She said that if the UK signed up to that Treaty it will “bind the UK” and that the UK is not a nation that “ reneges on its international law obligations” and we shouldn’t “start doing that now”.   She said the ERG wanted to ensure the UK enters such an agreement with “its eyes open” and that was why the Star Chamber of lawyers had been formed.

She said that the eight members of the ERG examining the possible amendments would need time to examine it and should not be bounced into accepting a deal.

“It’s very important that we have sufficient time as it is a lengthy document with hundreds of pages and technical legal details”, she said.

Braverman explained that having worked on the previous Withdrawal Agreement as a Minister in the Department for Exiting the EU, a post she resigned from in November 2018, it was not something you could read in “20 minutes”. She said she would be “locking herself in a dark room” to read through any new Agreement and she said she would “encourage other MPs to do the same”. “I need silence to focus on legal text, I will read it and form my own views and we will then consider them as a group.”

She said she did not regret resigning as a minister, and said it was a “personal and difficult decision” and that she had “enjoyed” working at DExEU. She said that the straw that “broke the camels” back for her was the final agreement on the NI backstop which would “trap the UK in the backstop and a customs union” and that she had wanted to be free to speak “honestly about that” to her constituents.

On the decision of some car makers, including this week BMW who manufacture the Mini at their Cowley plant in Oxfordshire, who have said they will leave the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit, Braverman said that there were some good indicators in the UK economy at the moment and that the previous predictions of economic decline following the 2016 Referendum had not come to pass.

She continued: “We’ve seen the economy grow. We have seen record foreign development investment last year, beating the US. British start-ups are raising £8 billion more in venture capital than their French and German counterparts. The Norwegian £1 trillion dollar sovereign wealth fund is a huge boost to the UK economy.  And Boeing is going to locate its first manufacturing plant in Europe to Sheffield. Forbes has rated the UK as the best place to do business.”

She said that the car manufacturers’ decisions to leave the UK, shouldn’t stop the UK government from “delivering on Brexit”.

Braverman explained she wanted the UK to leave with a “settled deal” and that “no-deal” was her “second best option” and she admitted that it would come with “surmountable challenges” but these would not be “fatal”. The government was, she said, preparing for no-deal. “It’s good to go”, she said. “If no-deal came about and if the UK didn’t get a deal it should be ready to walk away and leave with a no-deal”.

She ended by saying she was an “enthusiastic and optimistic” Brexiteer. “I believe profoundly in our countries genius, innovation and creativity to respond to new opportunities and Brexit as a liberation from a declining economic zone from a political stranglehold and from a closed market is a huge opportunity for us to pivot towards faster growing global economies to become truly global and rekindle links with other countries around the World, such as the Commonwealth and to truly promote fair trade, free trade and prosperity.”

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Briefings For Brexit