I cannot support the proposals made by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet yesterday. Neither, it seems, could the Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab, who has resigned. This is two Brexit Secretaries of State which the Prime Minister has lost in the last few months because of the proposals she has made.
My objections to the proposals centre round the fact that they would tie us into the customs union for longer; that we could not unilaterally decide to leave the customs union; and that Northern Ireland would have a separate status to the rest of the UK. Objections to this latter point have been made by the Northern Ireland Minister, Shailesh Vara, who has also resigned.
The proposals being made do not reflect the “Brexit means Brexit” and Lancaster House stances which the Prime Minister has previously taken. They also put a higher value on achieving frictionless trade (which is very important) than on achieving true independence for our country – independence which would allow us forge trade deals across the world. To me, Theresa May has thereby demonstrated that she has the wrong priorities.
Although I have always held strong reservations about her leadership, I was prepared to give her time to demonstrate that she really did believe that Brexit means Brexit. However, after she appeared to come away from that stance by making proposals following the Cabinet meeting at Chequers, I wrote a letter to Sir Graham Brady MP, Chairman of the 1922 Committee, requesting that a vote of confidence in her leadership be held.
That letter is still held by Sir Graham and remains live. It is for others now to judge if they believe that Theresa May is the right person to continue to take us through the Brexit negotiations or that, like me, she has clearly demonstrated that she is not the person to do so. Either way, I think most Conservatives believe that she cannot lead us into the next General Election, not least because the government we are attempting to run is without a majority because of the disastrous decisions she took in connection with the holding and running of the last one.
I will now continue to focus on trying to help bring about a change in direction of our Brexit negotiations so that the UK can become an independent, global trading nation once again.