Brexit Rebel Raab: Delay ‘Weakens’ Negotiating Hand, UK Must ‘Stand Firm’

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 15: Former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dominic Raab speaks to the media during a press conference to offer an alternative Brexit plan on January 15, 2019 in London, England. Dominic Raab and David Davis, two former cabinet secretaries who resigned in protest …
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Dominic Raab has warned that any suggestion of delaying Brexit “weakens” London’s negotiating powers in Brussels, but that to accept Prime Minister Theresa May’s soft-Brexit withdrawal agreement would risk a “democratic cliff edge” in the UK.

The former Brexit secretary made the comments following the resignation of former farming minister George Eustice on Thursday. The Brexiteer quit in response to the prime minister opening up the possibility taking ‘no deal’ off the table or extending Article 50, which Mr Eustice said in his resignation letter “will lead to a sequence of events culminating in the EU dictating the terms of any extension requested and the final humiliation of our country.”

Mr Raab, who resigned from his Cabinet position over Mrs May’s deal in November, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday, “I think the point of George Eustice’s resignation… is that by suggesting to the EU that we might delay Brexit, or take ‘no deal’ off the table, weakens the negotiating position.”

“Why would the EU make concessions now? The chance of a deal gets that bit slimmer and there’s less of a chance of a compromise… I think from the EU’s perspective, it signals to them that actually their intransigence pays off and I think that is the wrong message for the UK to send at this moment,” Mr Raab told host John Humphrys.

“It’s time for us to stand up and show some mettle as a government and as a country,” he added.

Mr Raab maintained that the Irish backstop, which could lock Northern Ireland in regulatory alignment with the EU, needs to be changed and condemned Brussels for its abuse of the “sensitive issue” of Northern Ireland “in order to effectively try to lock us in to a range of their laws really just to undercut our negotiating edge.”

“What matters is that we can exit that backstop and that we do not… as a democratic country sign up to a whole regime of laws from the economy to social policy over which we have no control and no means of exit. That would clearly be bad for the country and devastate trust in our democracy,” he said.

Describing the notion of Mrs May’s unpopular agreement being the only mechanism to avoid an extension of Article 50 as a “Faustian bargain,” the former minister said, “The reality is the worst of all options is to accept this deal because of the impact on our economy [and] the democratic cliff edge that it would lead to,” holding firm to his position that “no deal is still better than a bad deal.”

After months of affirming that the UK would leave the EU on March 29th with or without a deal, Mrs May caved to pressure from Cabinet remainers threatening mass resignations and to vote against the prime minister, resulting in her reversals.

A second ‘meaningful vote’ on the Withdrawal Agreement is expected on March 12th. Mrs May has pledged that should the House of Commons vote against her, it will be allowed to vote against leaving without a deal; following, if the remainer-dominated Parliament votes against leaving without a deal, lawmakers will be asked to vote on a “short” extension of Article 50.

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage warned this week, “if we extend once, we will extend again and again.”

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