Sophy Ridge on Sunday Interview with Iain Duncan Smith Tory MP


STEPHEN DIXON: Back to Brexit now and former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith is here and it is very good to see you sir, how are you?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Indeed, I’m good.

SD: Look, this is a mess isn’t it? We are now in a complete and utter mess where we don’t know if we are coming or going, Parliament has been prorogued, no one seems happy, what is anyone at home meant to make of this?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: Well actually it is a mess, I completely agree with you and I think the biggest problem we’ve had is we have had a government that has, my government has allowed this to meander, the previous leader Theresa May’s government, for going on for three years. The British people voted to leave and we need to take head on the ridiculous shouts of voting leave without a deal or anything else. The truth is I was one of the prominent figures within the campaign and I can tell you categorically it was quite clear that the Prime Minister then, David Cameron and George Osborne who led the remain campaign said categorically when you leave you won’t be in a single market, a customs union, you have to be out, completely out so the whole point about this is really people voted to leave. You can’t read into their heads what they voted for and Boris Johnson now is a breath of fresh air frankly. He has come in and said look, we have one purpose in life which is to deliver what people voted for which is to leave, get on with it, get the job done and then have we hope a good relationship with the European Union but if we don’t tell them and believe that we will leave without a deal if necessary as incidentally Article 50 explicitly says, you leave on the set date, it doesn’t say anything about having a deal, and that’s the end of it.

SD: You are being nice and frank with us this morning so let’s talk about prorogation. Ben Wallace was right wasn’t he when he was caught off mike, this is not actually about setting a domestic agenda is it, it’s about trying to stop Parliament blocking no deal.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: I listened to what Ben Wallace said and I thought what he was saying is there are a lot of other issues around but I don’t have a particular problem with it. Let’s just deal with this prorogation issue, first of all there’s a lot of crocodile tears and totally faux shock and horror about this. The reality for John Major, just out of interest, who wants to go to court, I don’t recall he went to court when he prorogued the House to stop there being any cash for questions issues. Politicians are very good at forgetting what they used to do and remembering only what they want to so the reality is prorogation is not some ancient idea, it happens all the time, it normally happens every single year only we’ve had the longest Parliament ever for 400 years. We should have had a Queen’s Speech well over two years’ ago but we didn’t and we didn’t have one a year ago, we need one now. Boris Johnson has just been elected leader and he’s right. There has always been a conference season, I don’t recall Labour getting up by the way in the summer and saying we’re going to cancel our conference, we want to be in the House. They didn’t say that because they want their conference and the Liberal Democrats didn’t say we’re going to cancel our conference so they were all happy to go to the conference which they normally would do. This amounts to six Parliamentary working days in which we are prorogued, let’s get this in perspective and all those people marching yesterday have either completely got it wrong because somebody told them something which was untrue or most of it actually I believe was actually engineered by the hard left of Labour because look at the placards. They were get rid of Boris, hang Boris, there’s a real foul commentary going on on social media as well so this is very engineered by the hard left and John McDonnell who you saw earlier, despite the casual looking nature of his interview, he is however deeply sinister and part of that ghastly Momentum crowd who just threaten everybody.

SD: There is an argument that says if you stop a no deal it stops negotiation, you made that argument to me. Do you actually want a deal? Would you really want a deal? I know you backed the Brady Amendment when that was up but you have changed your position somewhat since then haven’t you?

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: No, what happened was very simply I don’t like the Withdrawal Agreement, I think it’s a bad deal and I think we started to negotiate on bended knee and I think by the end of it we ended up on all fours and I have to tell you that’s no way to run a negotiation. Why? Because we gave the EU everything they wanted literally back in December 2017. I went to see the Prime Minister directly and said don’t sign this agreement. We’ve given them their money, we’ve given them their continuing period of another two to three years locked under their rules and also the likelihood we might end up in the customs union plus all the other bits about defence. So I said don’t sign this, I was against the Withdrawal Agreement and the only reason I finally voted at the end was that I feared what was going to happen next and it has happened – an uproar from the public over the fact that we didn’t leave on March 29th and now all this chaos so the answer is get on and do it and the reality for us is if the Withdrawal Deal doesn’t fly, Boris has said that and everybody agrees with it, it has to have fundamental changes. He has always proposed that, the EU has to step up to the plate. Now there is a very interesting point, right now they are not blinking. Why are they not blinking? Because they hope that what they privately think are the dupes in Parliament who are going to take away the no deal option from Boris if the can, that then means they don’t have to move at all because they know Boris then faces the choice of not being able to leave and having to extend. So the Prime Minister needs to face this down because if they want to withdraw this they are going to take away one of his most critical tools which is to go without a deal and the EU knows this would be enormously damaging and they are in recession many of those countries.

SD: But a lot of your colleagues who are seen as very ardent Brexiteers, if the backstop was to go they’d vote for what was left in a withdrawal agreement. You’re saying that’s not good enough.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: No, I wrote a piece about this and said Boris Johnson understands fully well what some of the issues are around the Withdrawal Agreement, not just the backstop but issues around legal controls during the course of the implementation period, issues around defence. These are all part of those discussions and negotiations. I’m one of those that says I want Boris Johnson to have a free hand in this to get on with it, I trust him to know what the problems are and I trust him to do his level best to get a reasonable deal from the EU and I believe the EU will step up to the plate once they know the alternative is that Britain leaves without a deal. It is really interesting, a man called Hans Otto Wenkel I think it is, he’s a German MEP, he said to the Commission it’s your fault, do you know when Britain leaves it’s like 19 or 20 of the smaller countries – and there are only 27 in total – leaving at the same time. It will be cataclysmic for the European Union. They know that, they are sitting on a deal that gives them everything so they are not suddenly going to say, I’ll tell you what, let’s give you back this stuff but they will once they realise there is no other way than leaving without a deal.

SD: In terms of the work that needs to be put in, Simon Coveney, the Deputy Prime Minister in Ireland would say part of the problem with the whole backstop which does seem to be a key element of this obviously, is that no serious alternative has been put forward.

IAIN DUNCAN SMITH: that’s not true. I went to see Mr Barnier twice with Owen Patterson and with a team of experts including customs people and we back in October pointed this out when the deal hadn’t been fully agreed to and they said to us at the time and in email exchanges, this is probably where we’re going to end up. These are all the alternative arrangements, we drafted all this stuff okay, so they’d heard about this back in October. We offered to work on it immediately but then the government caved in and signed this terrible agreement. We went back to see them again in April to say you can still change this deal and get it through and the attitude was different because they’d got their deal so Mr Coveney and the others are talking nonsense. The reality is that there are other arrangements, I’ve got another paper which is about to be given to the government that shows there are ways to secure our legal position.

SD: Iain Duncan Smith, we appreciate your forthright views this morning, thank you very much indeed.