Boris Johnson's Brexit deal 'bad for the Union and economy', says Theresa May's former top aide

Posted On: 
13th January 2020

Boris Johnson's Brexit deal is "bad for our Union and for our economy", Theresa May's former top aide has declared.

Gavin Barwell was Theresa May's chief of staff for two years.
Credit: 
PA Images

Gavin Barwell, who was the former Prime Minister's chief of staff for two years, also warned there was no chance of the Government agreeing a new trade deal with the EU by the end of the year.

He spoke out as he made his maiden speech in the House of Lords.

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Peers are debating the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, which will put the UK's departure from the EU into law.

Mr Johnson managed to renegotiate the deal which had been previously agreed with Brussels when Mrs May was still in Number 10.

The biggest change will see customs checks carried out on goods moving between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, effectively putting a border in the Irish Sea.

The new-look deal also makes clear the UK will have a more distant economic relationship with the EU after Brexit, something Lord Barwell said was "akin to Canada's" trading arrangement with the bloc.

He said: "I regret ... these changes - I believe they are bad for our Union and for our economy.

"However, I believe the referendum result must be implemented. People have waited too long already, and having spent two years telling people they needed to compromise to achieve that, I need to take my own advice."

The former MP also hit out at the PM's insistence that the post-Brexit implementation period, during which the UK will still follow the EU's rules, must end at the end of this year.

He said: "I understand why the Government doesn't want to extend the implementation period, but there simply isn't time to negotiate the entire future relationship, have it ratified by national parliaments and for business to prepare to implement it in 11 months.

"As (European Commission) President von der Leyen has said, we are going to have to prioritise.

"The main risk is not no deal, it is a very basic initial deal. It is in our interests for everything to be decided in one go because the moment that is no longer the case, we risk getting into a repeat of the divorce negotiations, where the EU ensured its three priorities were dealt with first."

However, Lord Barwell also called on the EU to compromise with the UK, adding: "History will judge us both badly if we get this wrong."