Ex-Minister: PM’s Cabal ‘Abused Constitution’ to Put EU Deal Together in Secret

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 20: Conservative MP Steve Baker takes questions at a European Research Group (ERG) press conference at the Emmanuel Centre on November 20, 2018 in London, England. The ERG today published a paper which outlines, what they say, are the benefits of leaving the customs union after …
Jack Taylor/Getty

Former junior Brexit minister Steve Baker MP has said that the Prime Minister’s cabal “abused” the British constitution to negotiate her failed “Brexit In Name Only” deal behind the Brexit Department’s back.

Mr Baker told Sky News on Wednesday that the only option to save Brexit is to push for the free trade agreement which was offered by the bloc a year ago.

The Deputy Chairman of the European Research Group (ERC) group of Tory Brexiteers led by Jacob Rees-Mogg explained that he and other ministers at the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) had agreed on that approach last summer and told officials they wanted a free trade agreement-based Brexit, and that “within weeks” the EU had made a corresponding offer.

“But the reason why [then-Secretary of State for Brexit] David Davis and I had to resign is that unfortunately the officials of the Prime Minister worked around ministers in the department responsible to come up with this ridiculous half-in, half-out plan, and that is the heart of our difficulties,” he said.

On Tuesday evening, Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement was defeated by a historic margin of 202 in favour to 432 against — largely due to the Northern Irish backstop arrangements which not only could lock Northern Ireland into regulatory alignment with the EU but, as Mr Baker explained, establosh the basis of the whole country’s utlimate future relationship with the bloc.

“If proper constitutional procedures had been followed, if the policy of DExEU ministers had been carried through, if we matched the offer of the EU, we wouldn’t be in this mess today,” Baker explained.

When Sky’s Adam Boulton tried to claim that the Prime Minister had ultimate power to overrule government ministers, Mr Baker fired back, saying: “You think you get the Seals of Office as the Secretary of State and that counts for nothing?

“Our constitutional position is the Secretary of State is responsible and the Prime Minister’s power derives from being able to appoint and dismiss ministers… but it’s the Secretary of State who gets the seals of office from the Queen,” he pointed out.

“Our constitution’s been abused. A ridiculous half-in, half-out deal has been put before Parliament, and, rightly, devastatingly defeated.”

Far-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has tabled a vote of no confidence in the Government, set to take place Wednesday evening, and while Mr Baker said that he would back the Prime Minister and a Conservative government in order to fulfil Brexit, he chastised her for taking the “decision to have as little Brexit as possible” and said that her best option would to take his and his colleagues’ alternative Brexit plan and table it so that the United Kingdom can “leave with a deal on time, successfully.”

Backed by other Brexiteers such as Mr Davis, Iain Duncan-Smith, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, and Mr Rees-Mogg, Mr Baker’s alternative written ministerial statement lays out a legal text on a new UK-EU arrangement to be presented to President of the European Council Donald Tusk by March 7th, whilst continuing to prepare in earnest to leave on March 29th with no deal and trade with the bloc on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms if necessary.

In plans published Tuesday, the senior Conservative MPs proposed a new Free Trade Plus agreement, including a replacement of the backstop, a financial settlement linked to progress towards a trade agreement, mutually beneficial co-operation in some areas, and an exit from the Common Fisheries Policy with has crippled British fishermen.

Mr Baker said in a statement: “We will offer the EU a better deal and we will be ready to trade on WTO terms with the EU if they decline.

“If we leave on WTO terms, we will no longer be faced with handing over £39bn for little in return, seeing our United Kingdom broken apart or being forced to follow EU laws with no say. This document sets out a firm plan to take up the EU’s March offer of a best-in-class trade agreement respecting UK priorities, the EU’s legal order and allowing the UK to develop a truly independent trade and domestic regulatory policy.

“We have the opportunity to set our own course in the world. This is the right plan to respect the referendum result and prosper.”

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