Writing in the Daily Mail, Michael Gove sets out his alternative Brexit plan
Firing his opening salvo in the Tory leadership campaign, the Environment Secretary warns that candidates pledging to leave the EU in October ‘come what may’ risk a clash with Parliament that could put Jeremy Corbyn in No 10.
Writing in the Daily Mail, Mr Gove sets out his alternative Brexit plan and says he would be willing to sanction a short delay to allow ‘a little extra time’ if a deal is close.
Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey have all pledged to leave the EU by October 31, with or without a deal. Mr Gove today says he would ‘like us out earlier’ if possible.
But he writes: ‘If we make the progress I know we can and we are on the cusp of a better deal which works for us, would it really be in the best interests of our country to opt for a No Deal exit when just a little more time and effort could make all the difference?
‘Also, saying that we would leave come what may when there is still progress to be made, runs the risk of Parliament forcing us into a general election before Brexit is secured. That would hand Downing Street to a Jeremy Corbyn government propped up by Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.
‘That would mean we lost Brexit altogether, risked the future of our Union, and handed the levers of power to a Marxist.’
As the leadership campaign got into full swing:
His plan at a glance
- No to an early general election or second referendum.
- Aim for an October 31 departure from the EU, with flexibility to introduce a ‘short’ delay if a deal is close.
- Create a ‘full stop to the backstop’ by appointing a minister who would have their own dedicated funding to resolve the Irish border problem.
- A ‘Union guarantee’ to be written in international law aim at reassuring the DUP Brexit cannot drive a wedge between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.
- Aim for a Canada-style free trade deal, with much more control over trade policy than Theresa May’s deal offered.
- Leave the EU without a deal if it becomes clear that Brussels will not budge.
- Jeremy Hunt discussed his plans for Downing Street with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron in the margins of the D-Day commemorations, with the German chancellor telling him: ‘Good luck, if that’s the right word’;
- Mr Raab refused to rule out suspending Parliament this autumn to prevent MPs blocking No Deal if that was the only way to ensure the UK left on time;
- Esther McVey said she would sack all Cabinet Remainers to form a top team ‘that believes in Brexit’;
- Tory polling expert Lord Hayward warned that Mr Johnson was a ‘Marmite politician’ who could drive away almost a quarter of the floating voters who backed the Conservatives in 2017;
- Former Brexit minister Steve Baker pledged to stand for the top job unless leading candidates accepted that No Deal was now the only option;
- Official figures revealed that the UK’s contribution to the EU budget is set to rise by £1billion to £13.6billion next year;
- Donald Trump sparked uproar in Ireland by describing the border with the North as a ‘wall’ and likening it to the border between the US and Mexico.
Mr Gove’s plan for Brexit focuses on a renewed effort to resolve the problem of the Northern Irish border, which wrecked Theresa May’s deal. But he would push for a looser ‘Canada-style’ free trade deal, rather than the complex customs arrangement devised by Mrs May.
On Ireland, he would try to secure a so-called ‘Stormont lock’ to be enshrined in international law.
That would mean that regulations in Northern Ireland would have to stay in lock-step with those in the rest of the UK.
Firing his opening salvo in the Tory leadership campaign, the Environment Secretary warns that candidates pledging to leave the EU in October ‘come what may’ risk a clash with Parliament that could put Jeremy Corbyn in No 10 (pictured: Jeremy Corbyn with Sir Vince Cable)
Tory polling expert Lord Hayward warned that Boris Johnson was a ‘Marmite politician’ who could drive away almost a quarter of the floating voters who backed the Conservatives in 2017
Mr Gove also pledges to shake up Brexit negotiations by appointing a ‘Conservative, politician-led’ team, rather than civil servants, to take on Brussels.
Mrs May tried and failed to persuade the EU to budge on the backstop earlier this year after MPs rejected her deal by huge margins in three votes. The terms of the latest Brexit extension specifically rule out reopening the withdrawal agreement with the EU.
But Mr Gove claims circumstances have changed and European leaders ‘want to find a way through this’. Former farming minister George Eustice, who is backing Mr Gove, said a Brexit delay would last no more than a few months.
Emerging from a hustings for Tory MPs at which Mr Gove laid out his plans last night, Mr Eustice said: ‘We are not going to flounce off over a few months.’
Mr Gove’s campaign yesterday received a boost, with the endorsement of ministers Claire Perry and Anne Milton, who oppose No Deal.
Rival candidate Rory Stewart echoed the warning against guaranteeing a hard exit on October 31.
He told the BBC that candidates pledging to get a new treaty by then were ‘misleading themselves and misleading others’.
‘Anyone who knows anything about Europe can assure you there is not the slightest hope of getting a new deal through Europe by October 31. Not a hope.’
Mr Gove suffered a setback when a promised meeting with Donald Trump failed to materialise.
Mr Trump held talks with Mr Johnson and Jeremy Hunt. But Mr Gove yesterday acknowledged he had managed only ‘a few words’ during a state banquet.
MICHAEL GOVE: The real horror of a Halloween no-deal Brexit? Handing No10 to Corbyn
By Michael Gove for the Daily Mail
Commentators often describe me as ‘a man in a hurry’. It’s true that in every job I’ve done in government, I’ve driven change and been determined to deliver the benefits of new policies as quickly as possible.
I have used the Whitehall machine to get things done and force through dynamic reforms. I have directed civil servants rather than letting them direct me.
That’s what I did as education secretary – with 1.9million more children now in good and outstanding schools. That’s how I approached reform of the criminal justice system – modernising our courts and making punishments fit the crime.
Also, it’s how I’ve approached my current job as Environment Secretary – with swift action on reducing single-use plastic, on animal welfare, farming and fisheries.
And it’s how I’ll approach Brexit if I’m fortunate enough to become prime minister. A clear plan. No drift, no dithering, no dilution of the referendum mandate for Britain to leave the EU.
We need a dedicated minister leading the search for alternative arrangements for the Irish border – supported with proper funding and intensive technical work
I’m ready to deliver Brexit. Once Brexit is secured, we can deliver a vision that will make this country even greater.
We need to improve public services, support the businesses that ensure growing levels of prosperity for all, invest in the infrastructure that the whole of the UK needs so as to flourish, and nurture new technologies so that Britain leads the world in scientific innovation.
Above all, Conservatives should be warriors for the dispossessed – the most disadvantaged in our society.
Crucially, we can use the money we get back from the EU to invest in our most deserving communities. We can demonstrate that Britain, outside the EU, can be a liberal, progressive and democratic beacon.
It’s because I’m an optimist about Brexit and this country’s potential that I’m frustrated that three years on from the referendum, we haven’t delivered on the result. I’ve always been a Eurosceptic. As a teenager, I saw how the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy drove my dad’s small business to the wall and hollowed out coastal communities in my part of Scotland.
Long before I became an MP, I was at the heart of the campaign against a single currency. So when the referendum was called, I knew at heart that I had to stand up for what I had always believed – and for people like my father who had suffered as a result of the EU.
I put everything on the line. I was willing to risk my career and friendships to fight for Brexit. As chair of the Leave campaign, I knew the fight would be tough but we won against all the odds.
I have used the Whitehall machine to get things done and force through dynamic reforms. I have directed civil servants rather than letting them direct me
It’s not enough, though, just to believe in Brexit – you’ve got to be able to deliver it. Here’s my plan to do so. We need:
A Conservative, politician-led, negotiating team. I will make sure MPs across the party are involved in shaping our negotiating stance and we have proper leadership in the direct talks with Brussels. My policy unit will be our parliamentary party.
We need a new approach to Northern Ireland – a Union guarantee. That means listening to our Unionist friends in Northern Ireland who want to see a so-called ‘Stormont Lock’ which would guarantee in international law that there won’t be any difference in laws across the UK unless the Northern Ireland assembly and executive agrees. I will also personally lead the talks to get devolved government back up and running in Northern Ireland.
A fullstop to the backstop. We need a dedicated minister leading the search for alternative arrangements for the Irish border – supported with proper funding and intensive technical work. We have to remove any risk that we could be trapped in a backstop, so I will work with the Irish government and Brussels to secure a clear exit mechanism, compatible with the principle of consent for Northern Ireland.
No second referendum. Holding one would make divisions worse and give the Scottish Nationalists another excuse to try to break up our Union.
A Canada-style deal. The best way to honour the referendum result is to secure a bespoke agreement based on the free trade agreement between Canada and the EU, tailored for Britain’s needs. This means free trade as well as taking back control of our laws, borders and money. Action this day. We must leave the EU as soon as we can. I want us to leave before October 31 and that will be my goal. I won’t be engaging in can-kicking or dithering over our departure.
A Brexit rule: always choose Brexit over No Brexit. If, finally, it comes to a decision between No Deal and No Brexit, I will choose No Deal – it’s a democratic imperative that we must leave the EU before the next general election or we risk letting Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street. I’ve been involved in No Deal planning. I recognise, of course, it would mean short-term turbulence, but we would get through it and ultimately prosper.
This is about more than Brexit – it is about trust and the very democratic values I stood for in the Leave campaign.
Some say that Brussels won’t negotiate with us any more. Certainly, EU negotiators recognise a cross-party agreement is now out of reach. They know Parliament won’t pass the same deal as proposed by Theresa May without legally-binding changes. They also saw the European election results, where the Brexit Party’s success was a reminder Britain has not changed its mind since the referendum.
Yet I believe that European leaders want to find a way through this. I’m convinced they want to conclude these talks as quickly as possible so we’re on course to leave by October 31.
I’d like us out earlier. But if we make the progress I know we can and we are on the cusp of a better deal which works for Britain, would it really be in our best interests to opt for a No Deal exit when just a little more time and effort could make all the difference? I would not give up on the progress made.
Also, saying that we would leave come what may when there is still progress to be made runs the risk of Parliament forcing us into a general election before Brexit is secured.
That would surely hand Downing Street to a Jeremy Corbyn government propped up by Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. That would mean Brexit was lost, the future of our Union at risk and the levers of power handed to a Marxist. As I argued during the no confidence debate in January, just think how awful that would be for Britain.
Jeremy Corbyn wants to leave Nato, get rid of our nuclear deterrent and have no army. No allies, no deterrent, no army – there’s no way we can ever allow that man to be our prime minister and in charge of our national security.
Every contender in this race for the Conservative leadership should answer what they would do faced with the choice of either delaying Brexit or fighting a general election before Brexit is secured.
My Brexit rule means I will always choose Brexit over the risk of no Brexit. The better deal I would secure, based on a Canada-style free trade agreement, would mean that we can take back control of how our country is run.
So we can then choose our domestic laws under the jurisdiction of our own Supreme Court.
It would mean that we can determine who comes to this country with an Australian-style points-based migration system, and refuse entry for EU nationals convicted of serious offences. My deal would mean no more compulsory financial contributions to Brussels so we could decide how our money is spent. It would mean scrapping the Common Fisheries Policy so we could decide who fishes in our waters, and the Common Agricultural Policy replaced. Live animal exports to the Continent ended.
Brexit is the most complex task any peacetime government has ever had to face. The stakes have seldom been higher; the consequences rarely been greater.
This is a moment when we need someone who is ready to lead and serious about the job at hand.
I’ve always been optimistic about Brexit. It is not a problem to be managed but an opportunity to be grasped. I’ve shown through my record in government that I am the best placed to master the details of a brief, build a broad team of colleagues, work out how to address the key issues, and get things done.
That’s the approach I would take as prime minister to Brexit negotiations. It would be a huge task but one that I would lead from the front. I’m ready to deliver Brexit.