ERG MP calls on Boris Johnson to scrap the Withdrawal Agreement if Brexit deal is not reached by October

PUBLISHED: 15:20 08 September 2020 | UPDATED: 08:02 09 September 2020

Bernard Jenkin appears on Politics Live. Photograph: BBC.

Bernard Jenkin appears on Politics Live. Photograph: BBC.

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A Eurosceptic Tory MP has called on Boris Johnson to scrap the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) if the UK fails to reach a Brexit trade deal with the EU.

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ERG member Bernard Jenkin said he only voted for the WA because the prime minister claimed he would ditch it if no deal was reached by the end of the Brexit transition period.

Writing in the Diplomat magazine, Jenkin said: “We only have a WA because Eurosceptic Conservatives, such as myself, voted for it to help the nation out of a paralysing political crisis. To his credit, the prime minister had ameliorated Mrs May’s agreement.”

“We made clear, however, that this agreement was barely ‘tolerable’ and only voted for it against assurances given by government: that it was just a starting point for negotiations; that it would be superseded by a full FTA [free trade agreement]; and, if needs be, could be repudiated.”

Jenkin, who also chairs the influential Liaison Committee, said he and a group of ardent Brexiteers would pressure the prime minister into abandoning the Agreement if no deal is reached by the mid-October deadline imposed by Downing Street.

“If we don’t reach a deal with the EU, Brexit is not done until the UK government succeeds in its determination to assert its own interpretation of the withdrawal agreement,” Jenkin said.

“If the EU is unwilling to do a deal with us, there are two options. The first is to enact domestic legislation that will largely nullify the direct effect and direct applicability of EU law. We have the mandate and majority to do this.

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“Second, if the EU insists on an unreasonable interpretation of the withdrawal agreement, the UK must stand ready to repudiate it. I hope it is not necessary, but if it is the only way to achieve UK prosperity and the kind of sovereign independence which is the democratic right of any nation recognised under the UN charter, then so be it. And most other nations would respect us for that.”

It emerged on Monday the government would introduce legislation that would overwrite key aspects of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which forms part of the WA.

On Tuesday, Northern Ireland secretary Brandon Lewis admitted that changes to the agreement would “break international law” during a speech in the Commons while Sir Jonathan Jones, the government’s top lawyer, quit in protest against the move.

The government will introduce legislation that will allow ministers unilateral power to oversee the protocol’s implementation.

A Downing Street spokesman said they “remain committed to the implementation of the withdrawal agreement and the Northern Ireland protocol” regardless of whether a deal was reached.

“The withdrawal agreement was written on the basis that subsequent agreements could be reached between us and the EU on the detail through this joint committee process,” the spokesman said.

“That may be possible but as responsible government, we can’t allow damaging default positions to kick in if we can’t agree these as part of the joint committee process.”

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