Europe

IDS slaps down Labour MP after she accuses Boris Johnson of ‘playing chicken’ with Brexit

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Sir Iain Duncan Smith insisted Brexit trade talks will now progress quicker after the European Union acknowledged the UK will not ask for an extension. The former Conservative leader said the “compression” of the December 31 deadline is likely to push both the UK and the EU into reaching an agreement. But his forecast prompted Labour Party MP Stella Creasy to interrupt him and suggest Boris Johnson and his Government are “playing chicken” with people’s jobs.

Speaking to BBC Politics Live, Sir Iain said: “The fact is compression makes everybody face the facts. Let’s get this deal done, and I don’t see why we don’t get some sort of Canada deal because they’ve already done that with Canada.

“There’s no reason we can’t get Canada Plus with a few other bits and pieces.”

The statement had Ms Creasy intervene to hit back: “I don’t think we should be playing chicken with people’s jobs and people’s businesses.”

But the former Conservative leader seamlessly rebuked her accusation, noting: “We’re not playing chicken. The people voted to go.

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“Compression is about knowing you have a deadline to reach an agreement, you do it.

“And the CBI is absolutely clear, no extension now because it just makes it worse and the Labour leader said the same.”

Sir Iain had previously rejected the notion of an extension of the transition period, pointing out both Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer and the Confederation of British Industry had warned against prolonging the uncertainty of Brexit.

He said: “All deals are about compromises. And actually, the truth is, I’ve never expected them to get anything serious done until finally, the EU accepted we weren’t extending. Which is now.

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“So I think you’re going to start to see the engagement very intense from here on in, quite rightly. Up until now, the EU has been saying extend.

“Interestingly, Keir Starmer I though was clear that there shouldn’t be an extension, get it done.

“The CBI said, whatever the outcome, get it done. Nothing that we can’t settle now is going to be settled by extending.”

Earlier in the programme, Ms Creasy had urged the Prime Minister to outline his trade strategy to help the opposition and businesses across the UK better understand what to expect from the negotiations with Brussels. 

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Ms Creasy also asked Mr Johnson to “make a commitment” to consider an extension later in the year should it become clear no progress be made despite pledges from both the UK and the EU to dial-up talks over the summer.

Asked whether she thinks the Government can reach an agreement by December, the Labour MP said: “I am sceptical but the Government and Michael Gove said this is what they are going to do.

“What I worry about is for businesses dealing with the crisis of the coronavirus, especially those who might want to do import-export…they need clarity.

“We are now in June, I don’t think it’s unreasonable for people to say, ‘make a commitment that if you can’t make progress then you will give us an extension.’

“Because the last thing we need is more chaos on top of the chaos of the coronavirus crisis.”

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