Alastair Campbell urges Tory MPs to ‘listen to John Major’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson successfully fulfilled his promise of striking a trade pact with Brussels, after critics argued he had run out of time to secure a deal before December 31. He, and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, both announced that an agreement had been made on Christmas Eve, bringing an end to years of tense debate. But Remainers such as Sir John and Mr Blair were critical of the Government’s handling of negotiations, once claiming a deal was “long gone”.
And Brexiteers turned on the pair, with political commentator Andrew Pierce appearing to demand they admit they were wrong after the deal was announced.
Mr Pierce said: “Tony Blair & John Major said in a joint statement in September ‘Brexit talks were in disarray. & promise of a trade deal with the EU ‘long gone’.
“Will they admit they were wrong? Course not.”
The ex-Prime Ministers sparked a wave of anger among Brexiteers after they urged MPs to reject “shameful” attempts to override parts of the Brexit withdrawal agreement in September.
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They said, in a joint statement, that the Government had “embarrassed” the UK after it sought power to change aspects of a treaty designed to protect peace on the island of Ireland.
Writing in a comment piece for the Sunday Times, they claimed the Conservatives’ proposal on the withdrawal agreement was “shocking”, adding: “How can it be compatible with the codes of conduct that bind ministers, law officers and civil servants deliberately to break treaty obligations?
“As we negotiate new trade treaties, how do we salvage credibility as ‘global Britain’ if we so blatantly disregard our commitments the moment we sign them?”
The pair argued that it risked undermining the Good Friday Agreement.
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They were also critical of the chances of the UK securing a deal at all with the EU.
Sir John and Mr Blair’s remarks were echoed by Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May, who also argued such a move to break the treaty would undermine trust in the UK.
But despite a wealth of Remainers moaning on Twitter that a deal would not be brokered, Mr Johnson kept his vow to secure a pact that would allow the UK to take back control.
Since the deal was announced, Mrs May said it was “very welcome news”, adding that the agreement “provides confidence to business and helps keep trade flowing”.
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Another critic of the Government’s handling during the negotiations was ex-Prime Minister David Cameron, who said he had “misgivings” with the UK’s withdrawal agreement move.
But after last week’s trade deal was secured, Mr Cameron said: “It’s good to end a difficult year with some positive news.
“Trade deal is very welcome – and a vital step in building a new relationship with the EU as friends, neighbours and partners. Many congratulations to the UK negotiating team.”
Yet, so far Sir John and Mr Blair have kept quiet.
It wasn’t the first time Sir John and Mr Blair had formed an allegiance to condemn Brexit, as the pair also attempted to stop the UK’s exit from the bloc.
Back in 2018, political commentator Ross Clarke described them as an “absurd double act”, before dressing down the figures and their relationship with the EU.
He wrote: “John Major’s central case seemed to be that the Brexit vote was not a valid reflection of the will of the people because only 37 percent of those who were registered to vote in the referendum voted Leave, while 63 percent either voted Remain or did not vote at all.
“Trying to claim all non-voters as being on one side of the argument – yours – is pathetic.
“Funny enough I don’t recall Major making the same argument after the 1992 general election when only 32.7 percent of the registered electorate backed him and his party.
“Far from it, he insisted on staying in Downing Street until long after it became clear he had lost even the support of those who had voted for him.”
Mr Clarke also reminded readers that Sir John had once posed as a eurosceptic, criticising the EU for its blundering bureaucracy.
He then asked: “Surely then he would have had something to say about the incessantly negative and obstructive way in which the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has gone about his task?
“But no, Major didn’t say a word about this.”
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