Stoke Tory MP Jack Brereton blasts EU as ‘threatening and aggressive’ as Brexit looms

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The MP for Stoke-on-Trent South Jack Brereton has blasted the behaviour of European Union officials as “threatening and aggressive” in an interview with StaffsLive.

Discussing the possibility of a No-Deal Brexit, the pro-Brexit Conservative MP said: “This is not just something that will be economically damaging for us, this is something that will have huge consequences for many of those EU countries

“They actually trade more with us than we trade with them.

“We’ve been very reasonable on this side, but they haven’t. Some of the things the EU has been doing is very threatening and aggressive.”

Since multiple key votes put forward by Prime Minister Theresa May were voted down throughout January, one of which saw the biggest Government defeat in Parliament’s history, the prospect of Britain leaving the EU without a deal has been growing stronger

Experts suggest leaving the EU without a deal could result in food shortages, a lack of prescription medicines being made available, and potential riots on the streets that may rival those seen in 2011. A Government report told how 3000 British Army soldiers are being “held at readiness”, preparing for deployment on the streets of Britain in the face of civil unrest or martial law being imposed.

Jack Brereton has called on PM Theresa May to be “robust” in negotiations with the EU. Picture: UK Parliament

Mr Brereton MP said: “I’m not concerned about a no deal, but it does need to be managed effectively.

“What I am very concerned about is if we don’t have preparations, and we have quite a chaotic no deal – us crashing out, basically.

“I can tell you now that there are a number of things that are not yet in place, particularly around border checks. Some of [these preparations]require physical infrastructure. At the moment, they’re not.”

Under current EU law goods moving in and out of the country within the European Union, such as lorries traveling through Dover and Calais, enjoy free movement. Stops and checks are rarely made, and delays rarely experienced by the 2.5 million lorries that travel through Dover each year.

If a No-Deal Brexit occurs on the 29th March, a ‘hard border’ would be created in Dover, forcing all goods coming into the country to be checked in an airport level of scrutiny. This would likely cause truck queues of hours, whilst the Government has attempted to trial different methods of lorry management to mitigate the disruption.

A Government exercise on Manston airfield, Kent in early 2019 saw just 90 lorries queued up in a line, designed to simulate expected gridlock outside of Dover post-Brexit. Critics dismissed the exercise as “useless”, noting the airfield is set to hold a total of 6000 lorries as an ’emergency carpark’ during traffic chaos.

Should Stoke businesses worry?

Asked if Stoke businesses should be worried during the run-up to Brexit, Mr Brereton MP told StaffsLive: “I don’t think so. There is, of course, the uncertainty; whichever businesses I speak to, they want to know what’s going to be the outcome.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s going to be deal or no deal, or whatever it is.

“They just want to know so they can plan and get it in place.”

Businesses across Staffordshire have been preparing for anticipated difficulties after Brexit, with the cake company Premier Foods, which has hundreds of workers in it’s Trent Vale bakery, stockpiling ingredients after expecting gridlocked UK ports if No-Deal becomes a reality.

Other businesses based in the region have been advised by the Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce to have ‘contingency plans’ and to carry out a ‘Brexit health check’.

Small Business Saturday
StaffsLive joined Stoke-on-Trent South MP Jack Brereton and Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry on a walkabout in Longton last year. Picture: Benjamin Wareing

However, a spokesman for JCB, one of Staffordshire’s biggest employers, told Stoke-on-Trent Live: “JCB is closely monitoring the on-going Brexit discussions and we believe the outcome of the negotiations will have little or no impact on our business.”

The former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who is pro-Brexit and one of the key figures in leading the ‘Leave’ campaign in 2016, delivered a speech at the JCB headquarters in Staffordshire last month. He was paid £10,000 by the company just three days before his speech, as disclosed in a Register of Members’ Financial Interests Parliament document.

The biggest point of conflict between Theresa May and EU officials in Brexit negotiations surrounds the Irish Backstop, which would ensure the border along Ireland and Northern Ireland – the UK’s only land border with the EU – would remain open, regardless of the outcome of Brexit.

European Commission President Jean Claude-Junker recently dealt a significant blow to the Prime Minister’s plans to change the backstop where he ruled out plans to swap it with a so-called ‘alternative arrangement’.

An ‘alternative arrangement’ to the Irish Backstop

StaffsLive asked Mr Brereton MP why he voted in favour of the Brady Amendment last month, which began calls for an ‘alternative arrangement’.

He said: “I do think that the backstop is a huge threat to our sovereignty.

“There is no way of getting out of the backstop, it’s something that once you’re in it, you can’t escape from it.

“It does really [infringe]on our country to make our own laws, to shape our future destiny, that’s why I’m very concerned about the backstop – and I’ve had concerns for quite some time.”

Asked about what alternatives he would favour, Mr Brereton MP said: “What I think needs to happen is that we look at some alternatives, [like]a technological border.

“What we really want to do is get the future relationship in place, so we don’t need to go into the backstop in the first place.

“An alternative to slightly extend [the implementation period]would mean that we can then get in place the new economic relationships we’ll have in the future. But ultimately, the ball is in the court now of the EU to determine this.”

StaffsLive joined Stoke-on-Trent South MP Jack Brereton and Northern Powerhouse Minister Jake Berry on a walkabout in Longton last year. Picture: Benjamin Wareing

Mr Brereton MP told StaffsLive that if he was sat on the negotiating table with Theresa May, he would call on her to be “very robust”.

He said: “The EU has this tendency to think that everything will come up to the final wire, and that there will be some compromise.

“This is quite a significant issue and we do need to get some further assurance – and some further legal reassurance – that addresses this particular issue.

“You can’t get out of the backstop, and that is the reality that would significantly infringe on other MPs – and myself – from potentially supporting a deal if it is brought back.”s current state remains within a final Brexit deal, the Prime Minister may face another historic defeat in Parliament as more Tory MPs speak out against it.

How the EU is treating the UK

On Wednesday, the President of the European Council Donald Tusk boldly stated that there is a “special place in hell” for “those who promoted Brexit without even a sketch of a plan of how to carry it out safely.”

Political commentators and politicians saw the statement as a thinly-veiled message towards UK politicians such as former Prime Minister David Cameron and Boris Johnson, who have ‘jumped ship’ from leading the Brexit process by resigning their senior positions.

The House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom called on Mr Tusk to apologise, blasting his comment as “disgraceful” and “spiteful”.

President of the European Council Donald Tusk gives a speech in 2018. Picture: Nikolay Doychinov

When asked about the comments made, Mr Brereton MP said: “There’s been some very irresponsible behaviour from some politicians, on all sides.

“I think that sort of behaviour continues to fester away at our democratic systems.”

Referencing a rise in abuse MPs face online, especially on Twitter, the Stoke MP said: “What I do think has been very negative is the growing abuse that we’ve seen, particularly the unacceptable behaviour online.

“People feel they can behave in a very different way than they would face-to-face, and I do feel that is damaging for our democratic systems.

“There are lots of positives to social media, but I do think there are some negatives there that do encourage this sort of behaviour.”

Labour MP Paula Sheriff recently spoke of a torrent of social media abuse she had faced, with vile comments such as “you’d be better off dead” being aimed directly at her.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has frequently spoke out about shocking racist and sexist abuse directed at her through Twitter.

Summing up his thoughts on social media abuse in the wake of Brexit, Mr Brereton MP described the issue as “a bit like Pandora’s box,” calling on tighter regulations to be passed through law.

Will Stoke’s food banks be affected in a No-Deal Brexit?

StaffsLive asked Mr Brereton MP how food banks across Stoke may be affected if a No-Deal Brexit limits food supplies across the UK.

Last month, The Trussell Trust – which has a network of 1200 food banks across the UK – announced they are preparing “crisis responses”, suggesting any form of Brexit would lead to increased demands on food banks.

Speaking to HuffPost UK last week, Emma Revie, the Trust’s Chief Executive said: “‘No-Deal’ Brexit poses the most immediate and severe risks to the supply of food and price of essentials.

“We’re seeing the highest levels of need across the UK – food banks are already over-stretched.”

Food at the Leek and District Foodbank
Food at the Leek and District Foodbank

Mr Brereton MP said: “I don’t think we can make those connections,” in reference to Brexit and a rise in food bank usage in his constituency.

“I don’t think Brexit is going to increase the use of food banks. I think there are many reasons why people might encounter using a food bank and it’s important we work together to address some of those issues in communities and help those individuals.

“Anybody could be in that situation at any time. I’ve got a collection box in my office that we regularly send food into the local food bank, and they do some very good work.”

Last month, bosses from Sainsbury’s, Asda, Co-Op,  KFC, McDonald’s, Marks and Spencer, Waitrose, Lidl and more signed a joint letter warning a No-Deal Brexit could lead to empty store shelves.

They wrote: “We are extremely concerned that our customers will be among the first to experience the realities of a no-deal Brexit.

“We anticipate significant risks to maintaining the choice, quality and durability of food that our customers have come to expect in our stores, and there will be inevitable pressure on food prices from higher transport costs, currency devaluation and tariffs.”

With 49 days until Britain is set to leave the European Union, concerns continue to mount about the possibility of a No-Deal Brexit.

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