Former Education Secretary Nicky Morgan says there is still a 50/50 chance that the UK could leave Europe with no deal come March next year – and that would be catastrophic for the country.
The Tory backbencher spoke candidly when she joined the latest Be The Change event at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU), alongside Labour Euro MP Rory Palmer, taking the opportunity to explain why she supports Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement.
Mrs Morgan, who chairs the influential Treasury Select Committee, said it is ‘going to be a very messy process over the next few weeks’ as MPs prepare to vote in December on the Prime Minister’s proposals.
But she is hopeful the outcome will be in favour of the PM.
Although Mrs Morgan warned: “No deal is absolutely possible. I would have said it is 50/50. If the agreement does not go through on the vote and Parliament runs out of time, or the EU does not agree with anything, then it can happen. No deal would be catastrophic”
Earlier in the discussion, chaired by DMU Vice-Chancellor Professor Dominic Shellard, Mrs Morgan had said she was ‘very sad’ that people voted to leave the EU two-and-a-half years ago but we can have a bright future.
“I think it was a huge mistake. We had an opportunity to be hugely influential within a large block of countries, she said. "Many of our allies in the world like us being part of the EU and being there to influence debate. A destabilised Western Europe does not serve the world well.
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“However we are going to leave Europe in March next year, but this country has been through a lot of crises in history and we have got out of the other side before.
“There will be a Brexit outcome. It is not entirely clear what that is but we are an enterprising, innovative and creative country and there will be a bright future out there.
“Theresa May’s agreement is not perfect but it should be supported.”
Mr Palmer, whose UK party has already said it will vote against Theresa May’s proposals, found issue with the withdrawal agreement because “it is incredibly vague” and he believes the answer is a General Election.
Mr Palmer said: “Theresa May made two big mistakes. One was tactical. She did not have to trigger Article 50 when she did. The clock is ticking and we could have had far more clarity before starting to draft an agreement. The other was that we had people who wanted the fastest, hardest Brexit and others who wanted to stop Brexit but a majority in the middle were prepared to compromise and Theresa May could have brought those people together.
“However, we are as divided now as we were two-and-a-half years ago. It is a bad agreement, a bad deal and the Tories are setting a damaging course for the country. This PM and this Government have failed. We should have a General Election to ask the country what they want.”
When one member of the audience said the UK should have a second referendum suggesting the country cannot get any more divided, both politicians disagreed.
Mr Palmer said: “I respect people’s passion for wanting a second referendum but I would urge caution. I still do not think we have debated Brexit properly and if you have a second vote when are you going to have it between now and March and what is going to be on the ballot paper?”
Mrs Morgan added: “You say we cannot get more divided. We can and it could turn to violence.”
Elsewhere in the debate:
- Mrs Morgan was critical of the media lobby for ‘pandering’ to Jacob Rees Mogg and his supporters who had tried to force a no confidence vote against the PM. She said of the MPs: “They talk a good game but can’t deliver”.
- Mrs Morgan does not believe the DUP will bring down the Government. She said: “I went to Belfast in September. They all said the one thing the DUP will not want to be seen as being responsible for is creating a new Government, and a new Government led by Jeremy Corbyn.”
- Rory Palmer said the mood in Brussels towards Brexit had dramatically shifted in the last few weeks. “There has always been a sadness and regret that this is happening but there is a real mood now of frustration. People are tired and frustrated by the negotiations.”
- Mrs Morgan said there was “an extraordinary collective madness that has descended on this country” when it comes to the two polarised and entrenched views on Brexit
- Rory Palmer was concerned that, amid all the debate, MPs were forgetting the decisions on Brexit were affecting the future of millions of people. He had visited a food bank recently and members were explaining how no trade deal could affect the amount of food that comes into the country and inflation and taxation could affect how much people were willing to give to charity. “Over the next few months we cannot lose sight of the fact this is about real people.”
Posted on Friday 23rd November 2018