The JIG IS UP! Theresa May ally breaks silence on ‘soft’ Brexit deal plot

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The former Conservative justice secretary who served in Mrs May’s Cabinet, touched on the former prime minister’s unpopular deal with the EU as he called for a change in Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy. Mr Gauke was among 21 rebel Tory MPs who had the whip withdrawn last year for voting against Boris Johnson’s Government on a no deal Brexit motion.

The former MP failed to get re-elected as an independent in last winter’s general election.

On Thursday he took to Twitter to blast Mr Johnson’s decision to rule out an extension to the transition period, which expires on December 31.

He said given the huge problems facing Britain and the EU due to the coronavirus pandemic, more time is needed to negotiate a trade deal.

But he argued that even if talks between Brussels and London crumbled and a no-deal was on the cards the transition period should still be extended to give both sides time to prepare for the upcoming changes.

He tweeted: “I know this is spitting in the wind but, given where we are with Covid both here and in most of the EU, ending the Brexit transition period on 31 December is ludicrous (deal or no deal).”

He went on to discuss how Mrs May had tried and failed to pass her Brexit deal through Parliament three times.

He called Mrs May’s form of Brexit “softer” than Mr Johnson’s.

Mr Gauke said he “always thought Theresa May would accept the case for a transition phase (which she did) and for a softer, less disruptive Brexit (which, again, she did but couldn’t get through Parliament)”.

Mrs May failed to please Brexiteers with the deal she negotiated with the bloc, and suffered multiple humiliations over it.

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Dominic Raab resigned as Brexit secretary in protest over the deal, saying he could not “in good conscience support the terms proposed” in the agreement.

Mrs May insisted her deal delivered on the result of the 2016 EU referendum and was in the national interest.

The most controversial part of her deal was the so-called Irish “backstop”.

The mechanism aimed to prevent a return to a hard border in Ireland.

The policy would kick in at the end of the Brexit transition period if both sides had failed to reach a trade deal that kept the border open.

Under the backstop, the whole of the UK would enter a “single customs territory” with the EU.

Mr Gauke intervention comes as trade talks between the EU and the UK moved from London to Brussels on Thursday.

Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission President said fishing rights and subsidies remain critical in talks.

She said: “We are making good progress but the two critical issues, level playing field and fisheries, there we would like to see more progress.

“We are now deep into how we would construct a system that is fair for both sides … which is a sine qua non for the UK to have access to the single market that is tariff free and quota free.”

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