Brexit warning: Don’t use Covid as an excuse for ‘useless’ deal Ann Widdecombe tells Boris

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And both Miss Widdecombe and Rupert Lowe, who served alongside her in Brussels under the leadership of Nigel Farage, fear such an outcome would be enormously damaging for the UK’s post-Brexit potential. Miss Widdecombe, a former Tory MP who served as a minister under John Major and was shadow Home Secretary from 1999 to 2001, said she had grave concerns about state aid, fishing rights and the EU’s level playing field.

If Boris gives too much ground we could end up with something useless

Ann Widdecombe

She told Express.co.uk: “If Boris gives too much ground we could end up with something useless.

“The thing which worries me is the pressure which is being caused by COVID-19.

“He will use that as an excuse to say we’ve got to get this sorted because COVID-19 is going to make our lives difficult anyway and we don’t need additional difficulties.

“The same thing goes for the European Union.

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“COVID-19 could just provide the excuse for giving in and I don’t think it should.”

Miss Widdecombe accepted the very nature of negotiation meant neither side would get everything it wanted – but added: “If we are going to look after our own industries and compete on our own terms, we need to move very little at all, very very little.

“It’s difficult for me to say here is the line beyond which we will not go because I don’t even know what lines they are discussing at the moment.

“It’s a complete dog’s breakfast – we should have got out cleanly.”

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With Mr Johnson and European Commission vice-president Ursula von der Leyen holding direct talks yesterday, by-passing EU negotiator Michel Barnier, there has been widespread speculation that the Frenchman’s role has been scaled back.

Miss Widdecombe said: “The fact that Barnier has been sidelined I think means that the EU recognises we are not going to get any closer with Barnier’s attitude.

“What has distorted the process has never ever got it, that he is dealing with a sovereign state now.

“He thinks he is dealing with a semi-detached member of the EU, and that is what we must not become, we must not become semi-detached full stop.

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“He has never understood that, he has never got that.”

She added: “I think Ursula von der Leyen is beginning to understand that actually they cannot bully us and they are in a very dangerous place.

“Because it isn’t going to help them if the talks collapse at this late stage with no resolution.

“That’s why we should have worked away in June. Boris’s first deadline was at the end of June and my belief is that if he’d walked then we’d have deal by now.

“They would have come back and said ‘okay we’ve got to talk about a trade deal’.”

Furthermore Miss Widdecombe said her concerns went well beyond the nature of the ongoing trade deal negotiations and back to the terms by which Britain actually left the bloc – the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration.

She explained: “It’s always concerned me. As you know the entire Brexit Party was opposed to the Withdrawal Agreement but it was the only one we had.

“I’ve never quite understood why the public were so accepting because we achieved that Withdrawal Agreement under Theresa May, goodness knows how many times Parliament threw it out, we get rid of the PM, we elect a new one with a very clear mandate and what does he do?

“He resurrects the same agreement with a major difference on the backstop, that is true, but everything else is the same.

“And it was always a rotten agreement and it has within itself the seeds of future discord so it is not going to go smoothly.

“The EU is desperate not to have a competitor on its doorstep, that is what this is about, it does not want a Singapore on its doorstep, a busy trading nation sitting there doing its own terms.

“And that is what it is terrified of and that is what the Withdrawal Agreement and the political declaration were intended to avoid – but of course it is what we want.”

Meanwhile Mr Lowe, the former chairman of Southampton FC, shared Miss Widdecombe’s view, telling Express.co.uk: “We fought like tigers at the time to show that the Withdrawal Agreement and the political declaration are basically not fit for purpose.

“The problem we are going to have is that while Brexit is the best thing since sliced bread, but a pig deal certainly is not.

“We don’t want a deal which damages all of the potential benefits of leaving the protectionist European bloc.

“If we are roped into their orbit we are not going to get the benefits that we need.”

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