North West Cambridgeshire MP Shailesh Vara has told the Hunts Post ‘no deal’ would be a “better option” for the country as he challenged the “scaremongering” from ministers who are backing the EU withdrawal deal.
Reacting to the deal, which was backed by 27 EU leaders on Sunday, the former Minister of State for Northern Ireland said “we can do better” than the deal currently being promoted by Prime Minister Theresa May.
Mr Vara defended his decision to resign on November 15, explaining that he “could no longer support the agreement”.
Mr Vara was the first minister to resign after the cabinet agreed to the deal following a five-hour summit in Downing Street.
He fired the starting gun on a rebellion against Mrs May which saw a string of ministers resign following the announcement, including Dominic Raab and Esther McVey.
In total, some seven ministers followed in Mr Vara's footsteps by resigning after the deal was published.
Mr Vara said: “I fully believe that no deal will be a better option for the UK. I feel like the deal that we have been given by the EU is scaremongering and the country can do better.
“I want this to be an agreement that is sovereign and independent and this agreement shackles us from perusing the free trade. I am not worried about a no deal scenario. It is deeply regrettable that people are still using scaremongering tactics that were used at the last referendum.
“We were told that unemployment and interest rates would rise, none of that did happen. What we have now is 'project fear 2'. What we aren't being told is that no deal is an option. If we even just talk about a no deal, the EU would see sense as they aren't prepared for a no deal option and they would look and see of there could be a different outcome.”
Mr Vara, who voted remain in the 2016 referendum, said: “When we had the referendum, people were made to think that the EU would be against everything, but actually we do bring a lot to the EU. Our intelligence stopped four countries from potential terror attacks. We have a lot going for the country.
“I fully respect the result of the electorate, and I think that it is important that we deliver, which means we will leave the EU, not get stuck in a half-way house.”
In Mr Vara's letter of resignation, which he posted on Twitter, he said that Theresa May's deal failed to deliver on the public's vote to leave in 2016.
Mr Vara, along with other ministers who resigned, have come in for criticism in some quarters, including from MP for Huntingdon Jonathan Djanogly, who suggested that people had made up their minds before even reading the full deal.
However, Mr Vara defended his resignation saying that he was aware of the terms before the deal was published.
He said: “As I had Brexit responsibilities, I was already aware of what was being proposed. I was hoping that my problems with the agreement would be addressed when it was published but it hadn't.
“If people think that I didn't read the deal then I suggest that they look at my [Twitter] timeline and take the trouble to take into account the huge amount of correspondence that I have had over Brexit.”
The MP admitted that a no deal would leave the country worse off in the short term, but the long term benefits would outweigh this.
He said: “I accept that there will be a lot of short term economic difficulty, however the UK will be able to sort it out as it won't be spending billions of pounds on the EU and can use that as a cushion. Although the difficulty would only be short term it will leave us in a better place for decades to come and we will be in a better position to prosper and rise.”
After the deal was approved by EU leaders at a summit on Sunday, Mrs May will now have to persuade politicians in the House of Commons to back the deal.
However, Mr Vara, along with Labour, Liberal Democrat and SNP members are set to vote against it.
Mr Vara said: “I will not be supporting this deal. I have been a loyal member of parliament for a long time and I will reluctantly not be backing this deal due to my desire to put my country first.”