Rally against Brexit plans was no coup on Prime Minister, says resort MP Martin Vickers
Cleethorpes MP Martin Vickers wants the UK to be free to enter trade talks during the Brexit transition period (Image: Rick Byrne)
By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 27 Feb 2018
Martin Vickers says his letter to the Prime Minister criticising plans for a Brexit transition deal is not part of a leadership coup.
The Cleethorpes MP was one of 62 Tory MPs to sign a letter warning Theresa May they did not approve of the current set-up for a Brexit transition period, with the EU banning the UK from embarking on trade talks for the two-year duration – a set-up Mr Vickers branded “outrageous”.
The letter was co-ordinated by the European Research Group (ERG), the Tory hard Brexit lobby led by MP Jacob Rees-Mogg.
With 47 MPs needed to challenge an incumbent leader under party rules, the group have more than enough numbers to kick-start a leadership race.
But Mr Vickers said he had “no appetite” to go through such a process. He said the letter was about pushing the Government to take a sterner line during the upcoming trade negotiations next month.
The backbencher said it was “outrageous” for Brussels to “dictate” to the UK after the March 2019 Brexit deadline. He said he had “made clear” to the PM that he could not vote for a transition period with such conditions attached.
Mr Vickers said: “There is no appetite for [a leadership battle] except maybe amongst one or two [MPs].
“The ERG would like to see the government being more robust in their approach to the negotiations.
“I think it is outrageous that the EU feels it is in a position where it can dictate to us about who we can do trade deals with once we have left.”
A total of 47 MPs is needed to mount a leadership bid against Theresa May
The ERG wants to ensure the UK can negotiate its own trade deals with other countries as soon as the Article 50 deadline is reached early next year, even during the agreed transition period.
The co-signatories wrote: “Any implementation period should not restrain the UK from negotiating or signing other trade agreements. The UK must be free to starts its own trade negotiations immediately.”
The ERG’s other complaint is that the UK could be forced to accept new EU rules during the transition – during which the UK has agreed to pay for continued access to the European single market – even though it is no longer an official member.
In their letter, the MPs argue the country must not become a “rule taker” after the Article 50 time-limit has run out.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP is chair of the European Research Group, made up of hard Brexit-supporting Tories
“Your government must have the ability to change British laws and rules once we leave, rather than being a ‘rule taker’ without any substantive say in whatever Brussels decides,” Mr Vickers and the other 61 MPs told the PM.
A number of the signatories, including Mr Rees-Mogg, were invited to Downing Street last week to discuss the content of the letter with Mrs May. A Downing Street source said it welcomed contributions from across the party.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn raised the letter during Prime Minister’s Questions on Wednesday, February 21, and asked Mrs May if she was aware that “62 of her MPs want a bonfire of workers’ rights in this country”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the 62 Tory MPs want 'a bonfire' of workers' rights by calling to weaken regulation
Paul Blomfield MP, a Labour shadow Brexit minister, accused Mrs May of being “too weak to face down the fanatics in her own party” and to “deliver a final deal that protects jobs and the economy”.
Mr Vickers and the other Tory Eurosceptics were unlikely to have been buoyed by the news that the Government has written to the European Commission calling for the transition period to be extended beyond the December 2021 deadline, giving more time for trade talks and processes to be put in place.
The Cabinet met at Chequers on Thursday with Mrs May’s team reportedly backing her call for “ambitious managed divergence”, allowing the Government to negotiate for some industries to stop following EU rules after Brexit, while others would be free to remain in sync.
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