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Why Theresa May should ditch her Withdrawal Agreement and opt for a CETA style FTA

In this Exclusive B4B podcast David Jones the Conservative MP for Clwyd West, tells listeners why he now thinks Theresa May, the Prime Minister, should ditch her failed Withdrawal Agreement and begin negotiations with the EU for a CETA (The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement) free-trade agreement similar to the one it recently signed with Canada.   

David Jones the Conservative MP for Clwyd West

Jones was one of 48 Conservative MPs who wrote to the 1922 backbench Committee, representing 15 per cent of the Party, asking for a vote of no-confidence in Theresa May’s leadership which took place on Wednesday this week and reaffirmed Theresa May as leader. She won that vote by 200 for and 117 against, which has subsequently been interpreted as a narrow win for May, but which has won Brexiteers and others the concession that she repeated again today that she would not lead her party into the next General Election in 2022 or before. May also vowed to listen to the concerns of her MPs about her Withdrawal Agreement.

Jones says any talk of electing a new leader must be put to one side and that what is needed now is a period of calm to give May time to consider where she goes next with the negotiations for the UK to leave the EU by 29th March 2019.   He does not think the EU will offer concessions on the Northern Ireland backstop and says that this is not the only change that is needed in the 585 page Withdrawal Agreement. He would also like to see changes to the £39 billion payment the UK is making to the EU to leave, and on the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice during the two year transition period.

“I put in my letter with great reluctance as I have a great deal of personal respect for Theresa May, but a change of leadership was needed,” he said.

He added: “All sides found the Northern Ireland backstop arrangement in the Withdrawal Agreement repugnant. The Prime Minister is now seeking legal assurances on that but we need a complete rewording of it. ”

Jones explained that he did not think the UK could regain its sovereignty until the European Court of Justice no longer exercised authority over UK laws. He said it was an “intensely political court” as shown by how quickly it handed down its judgement on the Wightman case and said the UK could Revoke Article 50 unilaterally days before the UK parliament was due to vote on the Withdrawal Agreement.

Two years on from triggering Article 50 Jones said he thought that the UK was not back at square one, but that it should “reset the negotiations” and try to secure a CETA style Free-trade Agreement with the EU. “There should be a recognition that the Withdrawal Agreement is dead”, he said.

He went on to say that the issue of the Northern Ireland border had been overplayed and that a soft border was possible and that the concerns of the DUP should be listened to.

He said Brexiteer Conservatives were not likely to join in any possible no-confidence vote against the government put down by the opposition parties and that he did not think the Conservative Party itself would fracture over the issue of Brexit so long as the government did deliver Brexit in some way. “If May relied on opposition parties to get her Withdrawal Agreement through Parliament the Party would pay a very high price indeed. It would create mistrust,” he said.

Jones ended by saying how “moved” he had been to see Theresa May present her case to Conservative MPs about her leadership on Wednesday and that the party had now got to put that behind them and look to how it could achieve a managed exit from the EU.

He said he thought that the problems of leaving the EU with no-deal had been over-played  and that it was wrong to think that the UK could not do trade with other nations if it left the EU.

“We need to opt for an international trading arrangement similar to ones that other mature nations have,” he said.

He continued: “I am very hopeful that the Prime Minister, having listened to the Party and I am sure she will be considering these concerns over Christmas, will come back  and go back to the EU and make it absolutely clear that the Withdrawal Agreement will not get through the House of Commons and therefore it can’t be ratified and suggest something along the lines of CETA, which is there as a model we can readily adopt because we are in complete alignment with the EU already in terms of the regulations. But there is only three months left from departure day, so any negotiation is going to have to be done very quickly.”

Jones thought 2019 would be a “new era” for the UK and a “very exciting one too” when Britain finally leaves the EU on 29thMarch 2019.

He wished everybody a Happy New Year.

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Briefings For Brexit