U.K. Must ‘Stand Firm’ Over Changes to Brexit Deal, Raab Says

(Bloomberg) -- Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab warned Theresa May that her withdrawal agreement with Brussels “needs to change” and Brexiteers in Parliament will resist growing pressure to back a deal that locks the U.K. to European Union regulations.

“We need to see substantial, substantive, legally binding changes to the withdrawal agreement,” specifically to the so-called backstop of the post-Brexit border with Ireland, Raab told BBC Radio 4 on Friday. “What matters is that we can exit that backstop so that we do not, as a country -- a democratic country -- sign up to a whole regime of laws from the economy to social policy over which we have no control and no means of exit.”

Raab’s comments come after Jacob Rees-Mogg, who leads the pro-Brexit caucus in May’s Conservative Party, this week dropped his demand for the backstop to be removed as a condition for supporting the prime minister’s Brexit deal. That led to speculation that euroskeptic Tories may be softening their stance and, faced with the risk of holding out too long and finding Brexit delayed or even canceled, might ultimately get behind the government’s agreement.

But Raab said Rees-Mogg’s position on the deal hasn’t changed. He criticized May for offering members of Parliament votes to reject a no-deal Brexit and to delay the U.K.’s departure if her deal isn’t approved this month.

“We need to stand firm,” Raab said. “Suggesting to the EU that we might delay Brexit or take no-deal off the table weakens the negotiating position.”

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