Brexit: Ian Blackford grilled over SNP's stance on trade deal
Lord Heseltine, former deputy Prime Minister, campaigned to remain in the EU in 2016. Now sitting in the House of Lords with a lifetime peerage, he said he could not support the Prime Minister’s trade deal due to its disruption to the UK economy.
The Tory peer said he would not vote against the trade deal as a no-deal Brexit would be even worse for the country.
But Lord Heseltine, also president of the European Movement campaign, said he could not give his support to Mr Johnson over the proposed free trade agreement.
He said: “The Government has an electoral mandate and I will not vote against consequential legislation if that might lead to the even worse consequence of a ‘no-deal’ rupture.
“I make clear, however, that I and the European Movement will in no way share in the endorsement of legislation that will do lasting damage to our country’s strategic, political and economic interests.”
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Lord Heseltine was joined by Labour peer Lord Adonis and former Tory minister Stephen Dorrell, who defected to the Liberal Democrats, in urging politicians to abstain.
The pair, also chairs for the European Movement group, said there was “no doubt” the trade deal will pass, but urged MPs and peers to oppose it.
They said: “We call on all opposition voices, including any Conservatives who put country before party, to refuse to endorse the Government’s deal.
“This deal bears no resemblance to what was promised; it damages Britain’s economy, jobs, security, trade in vital goods and the respect with which the UK is held and opponents of the deal should not allow themselves to be held responsible for its consequences.
“The only people who should vote for this deal are those who are willing to accept responsibility for its consequences.”
All 1,246 pages of the trade deal were published on Boxing Day, with parliament set to vote on the proposed agreement on Wednesday.
Boris Johnson hopes to pass a bill enacting the deal within a single day, with the House of Commons set to meet at 9am and the Lords at midday.
Tory MPs have voiced their fears the quick turnaround prevents them from properly analysing the deal, with Mr Johnson admitting in a text message to party members “the devil is in the detail”.
The PM insisted to MPs: “I believe we now have a basis for long term friendship and partnership with the EU as sovereign equals.
“I know the devil is in the detail but I am sure this can survive the most ruthless and Talmudic scrutiny from the star chamber legal eagles.”
David Davis, former Brexit secretary, has raised concerns to the Observer more time should be taken analysing the trade deal.
He said: “Whatever you think of this treaty it is going to affect the rest of our lives.
“It is a treaty that is going to bring to an end an argument that has dominated the first half of our lives, and the outcome is going to be for the rest of our lives, and it does require more than just a rubber stamp.”
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The UK’s transition period ends on January 1, but it is unlikely a trade deal will not be passed due to the Tories’ majority.
The SNP has said they will vote against the bill, calling it “Boris Johnson’s extreme Tory Brexit”.
Labour however will vote for the trade deal, after Sir Keir Starmer said the party whip will enforce support of the Prime Minister’s agreement.
Andrew Bridgen, Tory MP, joked the Labour leader “had more positions on Brexit than the Kama Sutra”.
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