Theresa May finally managed to strike a Withdrawal Agreement in 2019 but it infuriated many ministers throughout Westminster, who refused to vote it through Parliament and eventually forced the former Prime Minister to resign from her post. Boris Johnson immediately vowed to return to the negotiating table with the European Union with the aim of striking an improved and more comprehensive deal, which was agreed by the end of last year. This enabled him to deliver on his general election promise to “Get Brexit Done”, which saw the UK and EU enter into a Brexit transition period that ends on December 31.
Trade talks began in March but on several occasions have been on the brink of collapse, with both sides refusing to move on crucial red lines including fisheries, state aid and the EU’s level playing field.
Mrs May had famously insisted “no deal is better than a bad deal” as she stood her ground in the early part of negotiations with the EU.
But Brexiteer and Conservative Party MP Sir John Redwood said as soon as the former Prime Minister dropped this slogan and began to bow to EU demands, “she left the UK unable to get any kind of decent deal”.
He wrote in his latest blog post: “Mrs May had the right approach and the right slogan when she first embarked on negotiations over the UK’s exit from the EU. ‘No deal is better than a bad deal’.
Brexit news: Theresa May had repeated the message ‘No deal is better than a bad deal’
Brexit news: Theresa May struk a Withdrawal Agreement with the EU
“If she had stuck to that we would now either be completely out with no deal, or more likely out with a Free Trade Deal to protect EU tariff free entry to the UK market and vice versa.
“Once she dropped this important statement and revealed a continuous wish to give in to most demands the EU made she left the UK unable to get any kind of decent deal.
“The EU perceived the UK as weak and willing to recreate many features of its membership without the votes or voice. This was all much chronicled here as elsewhere, as delay followed concession and concession followed delay.
“UK voters showed their massive disapproval in the European elections which should not have been needed had we simply left as planned, and went on to confirm their clear wish to leave the EU with or without a Free Trade deal in the General election of 2019.”
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But Sir John has thrown his support to the aggressive approach taken by Mr Johnson and his Government in the ongoing and often bitter post-Brexit trade talks with the EU.
He warned the EU the deal being offered by Britain, in fact, favours them more and said they should “take advantage whilst the offer is still there”.
The Brexiteer continued: “The new Government has rightly insisted on three things. They do not wish to stay in the single market and customs union which we are still in during transition.
“They are not trying to recreate something like membership of the EU through a comprehensive partnership or Association Agreement.
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“They will leave without an agreement if the EU does not want a Free Trade Agreement. As they say in vivid language, they do not want the UK to become a vassal state.
“The UK is not seeking any special privileges from the EU and is only suggesting similar trade arrangements to other independent countries like Canada and Japan.”
Sir John added: “It is crucial to success that the government adheres to this sensible position. It was rightly reminding the EU of it in statements by both the Prime Minister and the Chief UK negotiator this week-end.
“Brexit means taking back control of our laws, our borders, our fish and our money.
“The UK is offering a Free Trade Agreement which is of more benefit to the EU than to us, though both would benefit from it. Instead of continued posturing and refusal to discuss this issue the EU should take advantage whilst the offer is still there.
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“The UK government this time does have to get on with No deal if the EU does not want to talk about proposals that are mutually beneficial.”
Sir John has also backed reports the Government was seeking to amend the Withdrawal Agreement by drafting new legislation, which Downing Street insists is needed to protect the Northern Ireland peace process if Britain is unable to secure a deal with the EU.
The Internal Market Bill, which will be tabled on Wednesday, aims to ensure goods from Northern Ireland continue to have unfettered access to the UK market, and also making clear EU state aid rules – which will continue to apply in Northern Ireland – will not apply in the rest of the UK.
An amendment to the Finance Bill will give ministers the power to designate which goods leaving Britain that go to Northern Ireland are considered “at risk” of entering the EU single market, meaning they would be liable to EU tariffs.
Sir John said: “I am glad to see the government has drafted unilateral UK legislation to amend the Withdrawal Agreement.
“We need to remove bad features of that if they do not agree to by negotiation.
“The EU has not negotiated in good faith so we must get on and establish full UK self Government as we wish.”
Responding to the reports, Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “We are fully committed to implementing the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol and we have already taken many practical steps to do.”