EXCL Chequers agreement is ‘final offer’ to the EU, warns Andrea Leadsom
The Chequers agreement must be the “final offer” to the European Union, Andrea Leadsom has said, as she warned Brussels they will force a no deal Brexit if they reject the proposals.
The Commons Leader said the white paper set out by the Government was a “hard and fast offer” that the EU had “better take seriously” or risk “forcing us down the road of no deal”.
In an interview with The House magazine, the Brexiteer said the Chequers agreement meets the red lines both of Brexiteers and the EU.
“The EU has simply not taken us seriously so far in terms of the future agreement. What this deal does is it says to them, ‘right, now we can have a free trading area where there won’t be the need for border checks and controls’,” she said.
“It’s saying to the EU, ‘you better take this seriously’. In my view, it’s take this seriously or we are heading for no deal. The message to the EU has to be, ‘this is the final offer’.
“So, when you say, ‘is it flexible?’, it’s not in the sense of they’re going to wriggle away at it and we’re going to accept it. It is a very hard and fast offer to the EU that makes sense for them.
“But if they don’t accept it, we’re also ramping up our no deal preparations. That’s where we will be heading and they will have forced us to do that.
“My message to the EU is, ‘take this seriously because otherwise, you’re forcing us down the road of no deal’.”
She continued: “It needs to be quite clear to the EU, ‘you’ve got to come to the table and start negotiating with serious focus and concentration and goodwill because otherwise, we will be leaving with no deal’.”
When asked if no deal would be a disaster for Britain, she replied: “It would not be the optimal solution, obviously. It’s definitely less than ideal. I feel that the UK would survive and thrive very well in all circumstances.
“But I would much rather that we leave in an orderly fashion with a decent free trading arrangement with the EU. I sincerely hope that they will now come to the table and start negotiating properly with us for that future free trading arrangement.”
Two Cabinet ministers left the Government over the agreement at Chequers, which some Leavers fear would leave the UK as a rule-taker after Brexit.
Ms Leadsom, who rose to prominence during the EU referendum, said that the agreement would see the UK leave the single market and customs union and end the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.
She told The House: “Different people have a different slant on it. For some people, they’re not happy with any sort of preferential close trading relationship. For me, I’m a pragmatist. I’m looking at what are the red lines.
“I’m asking myself, ‘are those red lines being breached?’ And I’m answering, ‘no they’re not’. We are still taking back control of our money, our borders and our laws.
“We’re out of the single market, we’re out of the customs union, we’re out of the agriculture policy and the fisheries policy. And we have the chance to be a globally free trading nation again, with the highest of standards and looking to the fast-growing countries in Asia and to the Commonwealth who are all opportunities that we’ve not been able to take advantage of for decades.
“Now we will once again be taking our place on the world stage.
“For me, that’s the prize. That’s why I voted to leave the EU. We have the most amazing future ahead of us when we do.”
Ms Leadsom also said it was “incumbent on the Government” to make the case and explain “exactly why the Chequers deal can work for us as Brexiteers”.
Speaking in the Commons yesterday afternoon, Steve Baker, the former DExEU minister who resigned earlier this month, warned that more than 40 MPs were prepared to vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal.