Staying in EU 'better than PM's deal', claims ex-Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab

David Harding
·Contributor
Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab (PA)
Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab (PA)

The former Brexit Secretary, Dominic Raab has claimed that Theresa May’s deal with Brussels is worse than staying in the European Union.

Raab, who was the minister responsible for negotiating the deal with the Prime Minister and is a leading Brexiteer, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I’m not going to advocate staying in the EU.

‘But, if you just presented me terms, this deal or EU membership, because we would effectively be bound by the same rules but without the control or voice over them, yes, I think this would be even worse than that.’

Raab, who quit the Cabinet earlier this month, also said the current deal is unlikely to be passed by the House of Commons, where many MPs remain opposed.

Theresa May claims she has the best deal available for the country (PA)
Theresa May claims she has the best deal available for the country (PA)

He said that could increase the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit.

Asked about reports that some Cabinet ministers were plotting a negotiated no-deal, Raab responded: ‘I would certainly be up for making a best final offer and then considering no-deal deals like, but that is not the course the prime minister has taken.

‘The reality is the deal we have got on the table.’

He added: ‘I think, inevitably see Parliament vote this deal down.

‘And then I think some of those other alternatives will need to come into play.’

126 days to Brexit (PA)
126 days to Brexit (PA)

His comments were immediately seized upon by political opponents, such as Labour’s David Lammy, as well as MPs in the Tory Party, including Phillip Lee and Heidi Allen, who are arguing for a second referendum.

Raab spoke as Theresa May said a deal is ‘within our grasp’.

At the EU level, a major obstacle remains in the form of Madrid’s continued concerns about Gibraltar, with Mr Sanchez vowing to ‘defend the interests of Spain’.

Mrs May said she spoke to Mr Sanchez on Wednesday night and was ‘confident on Sunday that we’ll be able to agree a deal that delivers for the whole UK family, including Gibraltar’.

But in a late-night tweet on Thursday Mr Sanchez said: ‘After my conversation with Theresa May, our positions remain far away.

‘My Government will always defend the interests of Spain. If there are no changes, we will veto Brexit.’

Mr Sanchez cannot ‘veto Brexit’ or the Withdrawal Agreement, but a refusal to co-operate will sour the atmosphere at a summit where leaders of the 27 remaining EU members were aiming for consensus.

Marco Aguiriano, Spain’s state secretary for European affairs, said Madrid needs ‘guarantees we can go on with this model’.

‘We are asking for an article that is put on the table to be included in the political declaration on the future relations,’ he told the BBC.

Sticking point? Spain has threatened to reject the draft Brexit deal vote over the future status of Gibraltar (PA)
Sticking point? Spain has threatened to reject the draft Brexit deal vote over the future status of Gibraltar (PA)

Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo criticised Spain’s stance.

He told the BBC: ‘Spain doesn’t need an article in the treaties, the future declaration, or indeed the withdrawal agreement, to bring Gibraltar to the table.

‘Gibraltar has demonstrated that we actually want a direct engagement with Spain on issues.

‘Spain is the physical and geographical gateway to Europe for Gibraltar. We recognise that and there is absolutely no need for us to be vetoed into being brought to the table.’

Education Secretary Damian Hinds though said he believed support for the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal would grow in Parliament as MPs considered the alternatives.

He told the BBC: “If we weren’t to pass this deal, I think it becomes rather unpredictable what happens next. There is a risk on the one hand beyond that of no Brexit at all – and there are people trying to thwart Brexit – and there is also a risk of no deal.”

EU leaders are meeting to discuss the legally-binding withdrawal agreement setting out the terms for the UK’s departure from Brussels.

They also have to determine the a declaration on the future relationship between London and Brussels.