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May’s Brexit plan a deal in name only, says minister who quit

Ex-universities minister urges PM not to rule out a second referendum to end the Brexit deadlock

Sam Gyimah, the latest minister to quit the Government over Theresa May’s Brexit plan, has dismissed her agreement with Brussels as a “deal in name only”.

Mr Gyimah, who resigned as Universities and Science Minister, said Britain was giving up “our voice, our veto and our vote” in Europe and would get “hammered” in the next stage of the talks on future relations with the EU.

He urged the Prime Minister not to rule out a second referendum if – as many at Westminster expect – she is defeated in the crucial Commons vote on the Withdrawal Agreement on December 11.

Senior ministers continued to argue that while the agreement was not perfect, it was the best that could be achieved.

However, with scores of Tory MPs now publicly opposed to the deal, Mr Gyimah’s departure highlights the scale of the task facing Mrs May if she is to avoid a potentially crippling defeat in the Commons.

He is the seventh minister and ministerial aide to resign from the Government since Mrs May unveiled the draft Withdrawal Agreement less than three weeks ago.

Like Jo Johnson, who quit as transport minister, Mr Gyimah backed Remain in the referendum, underlining the fact that opposition to the deal comes from both the Leave and Remain wings of the party.

We don't actually have deal. We have a deal in name only Sam Gyimah

Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, Mr Gyimah said: “Looking at the deal in detail, we don’t actually have deal. We have a deal in name only.

“We have given up our voice, our veto and our vote. Our interests will be hammered because we will have no leverage.

“My worry is the British public will be sleepwalking into a situation where we will wake up and find out that we are no longer equal partners with the countries in Europe.

“We are pure supplicants and rule takers. The democratic deficit and the loss of sovereignty that will result in that situation is one the British public, rightly, will never accept.”

After Mrs May, in Argentina for the G20 summit, announced she was finally giving up on efforts to secure access to the EU’s Galileo satellite navigation system, Mr Gyimah said the EU’s uncompromising stance foreshadowed the way it would approach the rest of the negotiations.

“What has happened with Galileo is a foretaste of the brutal negotiations we will go through that will weaken our national interest, make us poorer, less secure,” he said.

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Sam Gyimah has resigned as universities minister in protest at the Government’s Brexit deal (Conservative Party/PA)

He said that if Parliament does vote down the deal, Mrs May’s only realistic option may be to put the decision to the country in a second referendum, even though he acknowledged Leave could win again.

“There is a blocking minority in the House of Commons for almost every possible option which means that letting the people decide, now that we know more, might be the most sensible path for both Leavers and Remainers,” he said.

“The Prime Minister has already taken one step in that direction by appealing to the country to put pressure on MPs to vote for her deal.

“If you are going to appeal to the country to put pressure on MPs to vote for a deal then by all means you can give the decision to the country in terms of which direction we go in.

“If we want to avoid to avoid chaos and we want to make sure we are dealing with a decision that is irreversible I would rather go down that path than a go down a path that would cripple our interests for generations to come.”

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(PA Graphics)

Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright said that as MPs and ministers decided which way to vote, they would have to compare the deal with the “realistically available alternatives”.

“All of my colleagues are going to have to make their own judgment about what they think about this deal,” he told the 4 Today programme.

“Either we leave with we no deal, which would have serious economic consequences, or we say to the British public ‘I’m sorry you have got it wrong, you are going to have to do it again’ which I think would have serious democratic consequences

“This isn’t a perfect deal but I think it is the best one available.”

Earlier, there was some welcome support for the Prime Minister from Environment Secretary Michael Gove – one of the leaders of the Leave campaign – who urged Tory Brexiteers to get behind the agreement.

In an article for the Daily Mail, he warned that Brexit could be “in peril” if the agreement was voted down.

“Does the deal deliver 100% of what I wanted? No. But then we didn’t win 100% of the vote … you can’t always get everything that you want,” he wrote.

Responding to Mr Gyimah’s resignation, Labour Party chairman Ian Lavery said: “Theresa May’s Government continues to fall apart in front of our eyes.

“May’s botched deal is failing because it would be bad for Britain and people are waking up to that. We want to end this chaos with a sensible, Jobs First Brexit.”

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