Belfast Telegraph

British people 'in control' over Brexit deal at next election, says Michael Gove

Leading Cabinet Brexiteer Michael Gove has said voters will be able to force changes to an EU withdrawal deal at the next election if they do not like it.

The Environment Secretary's comments came as Prime Minister Theresa May won public backing from both wings of the Tory Party after securing an agreement with Brussels to start post-Brexit trade negotiations.

Under the deal, Britain will pay a "divorce settlement" of between £35 billion and £39 billion, allow the European Court of Justice (ECJ) a legal role for eight years after withdrawal, and ensure there is no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Mr Gove said: "The British people will be in control. If the British people dislike the agreement that we have negotiated with the EU, the agreement will allow a future government to diverge."

The Environment Secretary said that after a transition period, the UK would have "full freedom to diverge from EU law on the single market and customs union".

Sources close to Mr Gove said the article had been encouraged and signed-off on by Downing Street.

Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom said Mr Gove's remarks were a "statement of the obvious".

Ms Leadsom told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It is the case in a sovereign parliament that the voters can choose to take a country in a different direction."

The comments came as it emerged the Cabinet is set to finally discuss what the UK's post-Brexit "end state" relationship with the EU should be at a meeting on December 19.

The gathering is expected to see prominent Leave campaigners such as Mr Gove and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson argue their Brexit version of withdrawal against the softer stance taken by Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

Former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said this week's events proved the EU wanted a free trade deal with the UK.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The EU recognises that they really do need and want a free trade arrangement with the UK and they were prepared to do what was necessary to get it."

Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage predicted that Tory anger at Mrs May's agreement with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker would emerge over the weekend.

He told the BBC: "I think that within the next 48 hours you will hear a lot more Conservative voices... saying, actually, they are not happy with what's happened today."

Proposals allowing the ECJ a role in overseeing EU citizens' rights in Britain for eight years after Brexit have caused concern to some Tories, as well as a compromise on the Irish border issue which stated that if no trade deal is reached, the UK as a whole will maintain "full alignment" with elements of the EU single market and customs union which support the economy of the island of Ireland and the Good Friday Agreement.

Tory former Brexit minister David Jones warned this could "severely handicap" Britain's ability to enter free trade agreements covering areas such as agriculture with countries outside the EU, such as the US.

But Justice Minister Dominic Raab said the details of how to deal with the issue of the Irish border had still to be worked out in full.

He told BBC 2's Newsnight: "You can call it strategic ambiguity, you can call it constructive ambiguity... what I am admitting to you, very openly, and honestly, is that we have agreed principles, but that the details still need to be ironed out on this very bespoke set of issues around Northern Ireland which can't be dealt with properly and responsibly outside of the context of the broader negotiation on customs and trade and all of those other things we have said all along."

Labour's shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said the agreement on the Irish border issue was a "fudge".

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Quite frankly, it is difficult to see that this is anything other than a fudge."

Asked if the Irish agreement meant Britain could end up mirroring the single market on alignment issues in certain circumstances, Ms Leadsom said: "The entire United Kingdom will be leaving the single market and the customs union and the European Union together, and will have the same ability to make our own rules and regulations.

"But there are certain parts of the island of Ireland where it will be important that they continue to have alignment."

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