On DW’s Conflict Zone this week, Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen told host Tim Sebastian that “whatever happens, I am not signing [May’s] withdrawal agreement. I will not betray my country or my electorate.”
Boris Johnson himself, as well as members of his government, such as Dominic Raab and Jacob Rees-Mogg, also known as hard-liners on Brexit, voted for the deal only a few months ago. Why was it so terrible now?
“I think they were looking at the lesser of evils, I think they could see that Brexit was slipping away, potentially,” said Bridgen. “Obviously with hindsight, [Johnson and Rees-Mogg] will have regretted voting for the withdrawal agreement.”
Under Johnson, discipline in the Conservative Party has continued to be a problem.
Bridgen said he had voted against the government many times as a backbencher, including three times against May’s deal, but drew a distinction between his disloyalty and that of his 21 recently-ousted colleagues: “I voted against specific policies. What the rebels last week did was they voted to take away the government’s ability to legislate and hand it to the opposition and they were warned prior to that vote that if they did so they would lose the whip.”
The government also lost key personnel when Amber Rudd, a senior minister who had opposed Boris Johnson’s leadership campaign but later joined his cabinet, resigned from her post citing the administration’s failure to work towards a new deal with the EU. She said that most of its focus had been on preparing for a no-deal Brexit.
In a referendum debate in 2016, Amber Rudd described Boris Johnson as the “life and soul of the party but not the man you want driving you home at the end of the evening”
Bridgen said that Rudd’s position on the EU and the negotiations were “well known” and lamented that more planning for no deal had not been done before. “The more the government prepared for no deal and publicly let that be known, the less likely we’re ever going to need it.”
Of the government’s efforts to find a deal with the EU, which Johnson says he wants, a major obstacle has been resolving the question over the future of the Irish border – the UK’s only land border with the EU. Bridgen said the issue had become “conflated” and a “stick with which to beat the UK government.”
But new proposals to resolve the impasse had been promised by Johnson, so where were they?