Brexit deal 'best recruiting sergeant’ says Heseltine
Speaking to Sky News, the former deputy prime minister, who campaigned to remain within the bloc, said however that he would not vote against Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal because the consequences of a no deal would be even graver. But he insisted the agreement would encourage those in Scotland, Wales and Ireland who hope for the breakup of the United Kindom to pursue their agenda at the next national elections.
He said: “I hope that all those people who are thinking of voting for the Brexit deal this week will realise that it is the best recruiting sergeant that the Irish, the Scots and Welsh have ever had.
“Because all the things that they are saying about why they have to have sovereignty and given the opportunity to make their own laws, where do we hear those arguments?
“They were the Brexiteers’ arguments for breaking up from the European Union.
“So what has happened is that Brexit has handed the best recruiting sergeant for the breakup of the United Kingdom that they could ever wish for.
“And don’t you have any doubts they will exploit it. And we’re going to see that now in the coming elections in Scotland.
“And the Welsh and the Irish are not far behind.”
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Lord Heseltine was joined by Labour’s Lord Adonis and Stephen Dorrell, a former Conservative Cabinet minister who defected to the Lib Dems, in urging parliamentarians not to endorse the treaty.
Parliament is being recalled to vote on the deal on Wednesday, a day before the agreement is to be implemented at the end of the transition period.
Lord Heseltine 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 Adonis and Mr Dorrell said there is “no doubt” the deal will pass, with Labour whipping to back it because the alternative is a chaotic no-deal.
“We call on all opposition voices, including any Conservatives who put country before party, to refuse to endorse the Government’s deal,” they said.
“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.”
The deal is, indeed, likely to pass through both Houses, with Labour ordering its MPs to vote for the “thin” treaty because the only other option is a departure without a trade deal.
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The European Parliament must also formally ratify the deal in the new year – although this will now apply retrospectively.
The agreement came as ministers stepped up calls for businesses and individuals to prepare for the new procedures that will apply in just four days’ time, regardless of the agreement.
A hasty analysis of the treaty secured on Christmas Eve began in earnest when it was published in full on Boxing Day – less than a week before its implementation.
The self-styled “star chamber” of lawyers led by veteran Eurosceptic MP Sir Bill Cash and assembled by the European Research Group of Tory Brexiteers was expected to reveal its verdict on Tuesday.
But there were indications Brexit hardliners were preparing to support the deal, despite being angered by the little time they have to debate it.
Ian Blackford, the SNP’s leader in Westminster, said his party would vote against the “unforgivable act of economic vandalism and gross stupidity” which he argued is a “very bad deal for Scotland”.
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