After resigning as Brexit Secretary over Theresa May’s proposed deal, Dominic Raab has restyled himself as one of the more loyal of the Brexiteer rebels. He used an appearance on the Andrew Marr show over the weekend to say that although he would note vote for the deal as it currently stands, he still backed Theresa May as Prime Minister and would vote for her in any confidence vote.
This morning he is upped the ante, however, with an interview on the Today programme. Discussing both the withdrawal agreement and the future framework (which was set out on Thursday), Raab was frank in his assessment. The Tory Brexiteer said he would prefer EU membership to what’s currently on the table. Raab described May’s deal as being inferior to being an EU member state:
‘We'd effectively be bound by the same rules but without the control or voice over them.’
Theresa May's proposed EU deal "would be even worse" than staying in the EU on the current terms says former Brexit Secretary @DominicRaab: "We'd effectively be bound by the same rules but without the control or voice over them" #r4today https://t.co/sSz7eZkmtZ pic.twitter.com/eRICMQb0mB
— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) November 23, 2018
So, what’s going on – has Raab suddenly become a Europhile? Although pro-EU figures have been quick to latch onto the comments, Raab is only saying what a lot of Brexiteer MPs – and some ministers - are saying privately. If you are a Leave voter who voted to take back control, May’s deal appears to do the opposite in several key areas. Although it would bring back full control of borders, fed up Tories see it as two steps back on financial independence - and the scope for free trade.
That’s not to say Raab and co. now wish to remain in the EU – nor is a second referendum seen as a great idea. What this group of MPs want is a new approach to Brexit – and more preparations for no deal. That looks unlikely while May is in charge. The risk of May’s compromise Brexit is that by trying to find common ground on such a divisive issue, it ends up satisfying no-one. One of the arguments May's allies have been making for her deal is that it allows the UK to get out – and the terms can be improved in the coming years. It's clear that argument is falling on deaf ears with many Leave MPs.
If the Brexiteer voices saying May’s deal is inferior to EU membership grow louder in the coming weeks, the numbers will look even worse for getting this deal through Parliament whether it’s the first, second or third attempt.