Conservative Eurosceptics have set up a new lobby group to pressure Theresa May to take Britain out of the European single market and end free movement of people. The group, Leave Means Leave, will oppose any deal with the EU short of a “hard Brexit”, arguing that any compromise would be a betrayal of June’s referendum vote.
The group includes former ministers Dominic Raab, Owen Patterson and Gerard Howarth, along with veteran Eurosceptic Peter Bone. Richard Tice, a property tycoon who helped to bankroll the pro-Brexit campaign group leave.eu, will chair Leave Means Leave.
“On June 23rd the British people made it clear that they wanted to leave the EU. There should be no compromise on this. The sooner we leave the more certainty and confidence for everyone. It should be a maximum of two years post-serving article 50,” he said. “Non-EU countries will know when we can sign trade deals and the EU will know we are serious. Also consumers and businesses can draw confidence that we are a globally focused strong economy. Let’s be clear: no deal is better than a bad deal.”
The group’s launch report says that remaining in the single market would pull Britain’s political and economic focus towards what it calls “the world’s least successful economic zone” and require British business to remain under the regulatory sway of Brussels.
If a satisfactory trade deal with the EU outside the single market is elusive, the group recommends Britain should fall back on World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules to regulate its trade with the rest of Europe.
Conservative MP Anna Soubry, whose Open Britain group wants the closest possible future relationship with the EU, said Leave Means Leave‘s ideas would damage the British economy.
“The biggest threat our economy faces is Leave campaigners wanting to leave the EU with no trade deal at all. This would mean new tariffs on nine out of 10 goods we sell to the EU, including 10 per cent on cars. This would decimate our national industries and cost jobs,” she said.
European Council president Donald Tusk said at the weekend Ms May had told him Britain could be ready to invoke article 50, triggering the start of formal exit talks, next February. The prime minister has ruled out starting negotiations before the end of 2016 but Downing Street did not confirm Mr Tusk’s statement.
Ukip’s new leader, Diane James, waded into controversy yesterday when she identified Vladimir Putin as one of her political heroes, alongside Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
“I admire him from the point of view that he’s standing up for his country. He is very nationalist.He is a very strong leader. He is putting Russia first, and he has issues with the way the EU encouraged a change of government in the Ukraine…”
Denis Staunton, 19th September 2016, The Irish Times