Tory attacks white paper to ‘stand up for Scots Leavers’

Ross Thomson believes the Prime Minister is proposing the worst of all worlds. Picture: Chris McAndrew
Ross Thomson believes the Prime Minister is proposing the worst of all worlds. Picture: Chris McAndrew
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Scotland’s one million Leave voters aren’t being given a voice by their representatives at Westminster, the Tory MP Ross Thomson has said as ahead of a possible Commons rebellion against Theresa May’s Brexit strategy.

The Aberdeen South MP said he was “amazed” that his 12 Scottish Tory colleagues had rushed to endorse the Prime Minister’s Brexit compromise at Chequers last week, and threatened to vote against an exit agreement based on May’s White Paper. Amid threats of a guerrilla campaign by Brexiteer MPs angry that the plan will keep the UK tied to EU regulations and court rulings on goods, Thomson will push forward with amendments at the final Commons stage of the Trade Bill tomorrow, in a bid to make it impossible to deliver May’s proposed “Facilitated Customs Partnership”.

The agreement made at a meeting of cabinet ministers at Chequers, earlier this month, was meant to form the basis of the Brexit white paper. Picture: Joel Rouse/Crown Copyright/PA

The agreement made at a meeting of cabinet ministers at Chequers, earlier this month, was meant to form the basis of the Brexit white paper. Picture: Joel Rouse/Crown Copyright/PA

Last weekend, Pro-Brexit Scottish Tories, such as Allister Jack, said they would support the Chequers agreement before the detail was set out on Thursday in the white paper.

Speaking to Scotland on Sunday, Thomson said: “I’ll be honest, I was amazed that some colleagues were able, so quickly after the Chequers plan was released, to give full support to it, saying it was a workable proposal before seeing any of the detail in the White Paper.

“To me that just seems daft, giving full and unwavering support to something before you’ve seen the detail, because the detail is all-important in this.

“I reserved my judgement on this over the weekend [after Chequers], I waited to go into a briefing from Downing Street so I could seek reassurance… I awaited the White Paper, and now what concerns me even more is that having read it, I actually think it’s worse than the Chequers plan.”

Thomson added: “Now that I’ve gone into the detail I’m even more confident in my view that this doesn’t deliver Brexit. It keeps all of the worst aspects of the EU… what this is is the status quo, staying in the single market in all but name, staying in the customs union in all but name, staying under the jurisdiction of the ECJ, but with none of the benefits of membership.

“We would become a voiceless rule-taker. I think that is the worst of all worlds.”

Thomson said that while the Scottish Tory group was a “broad church”, the support for the government’s Brexit strategy was “disproportionate” to the level of support for Leave in Scotland.

“It’s disproportionate that there’s only one MP who’s willing to put his head above the parapet,” he said. “That’s not right, because it means there’s over one million people in Scotland whose voices are not being fully represented.”

Thomson has put his name to amendments to the Trade Bill that would rule out key aspects of the Prime Minister’s customs plan, such as the collection of tariffs on behalf of the EU.

Talks are being held between government whips and Tory MPs backing the amendments, including Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group of backbench Brexiteers, with the group hopeful of concessions.

The ERG has so far not said it will vote against the bill if its amendments are rejected, but Thomson suggested further pressure would be put on the government by Brexiteers until it agreed to abandon plans for a “common rulebook” on goods, backed by the legal interpretation of the ECJ.

“I am really concerned that in terms of the trade in goods, we are going to be completely aligned with the EU.

“Just, for example, one of the things that got a lot of publicity and frustrates people because it’s daft EU nonsense – when they banned hoovers that were more powerful than 900 watts. That won’t change.”

Thomson also warned that while the Prime Minister was proposing to stay aligned to the EU’s rules on goods, there would also be an impact on parts of the service sector that makes up 80 per cent of the UK economy.

“If you run an office building or a hotel, and you go and buy an elevator, that’s not just a good,” he said. “It comes with the service of installing the elevator, maintaining it. You can’t always just differentiate goods from services.”

He added: “As it stands, that White Paper does not deliver Brexit. The Prime Minister said Brexit means Brexit. Her words, her pledge. Under this White Paper, that is not the case.”

Despite his concerns, Thomson said he would not be joining around 30 MPs who have already signed letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister. He warned against a “navel gazing” leadership contest.

“My issue has always been about the policy not the person,” Thomson said. “I actually still think Theresa May is the best person to negotiate with Europe, and to get this through, if she has the right plan behind her.”