INTERVIEW: Anna Soubry MP speaks with the Parliamentary Review
In light of the European elections tomorrow, we got in touch with Anna Soubry MP to discuss her views on Brexit, the Conservative Party and Change UK.
“The clue is in the name,” Soubry began. “We want to change the way politics is done in this country. We want to end the tribalism that is blighting British politics; to base politics on evidence, not ideology.”
As with Dr Sarah Wollaston, her main diagnosis was that the “sensible, moderate centre ground” in British politics has been abandoned, “with Labour to the far left and the Conservative party galloping towards the hard right.”
A hard Brexit, which the majority of people – even of those who voted leave – did not vote for, and which was certainly not promised, was then effectively embarked upon
In terms of Soubry’s exit from the Conservative party, I was keen to know which straw broke the camel’s back – “What was it about the Conservative party that you could no longer tolerate?”
This, she said, was the wrong way to think about it. She particularly objected to our use of the term “tolerate”.
Instead, Soubry told us: “The Conservative Party left me; I didn’t leave them. My values and principles haven’t changed. It’s become the party of Brexit.”
“The party has been taken over by a strain of conservatism which arguably isn’t even conservatism. It’s a march toward nationalism, more intolerance and ideologically-driven politics, which I absolutely do not subscribe to.”
What she found particularly irritating was the fact that a sizeable portion of Conservative MPs in 2016 argued strongly in favour of the EU, but, “having lost the referendum, now embrace and facilitate Brexit – making Brexit out to be a good thing despite knowing in their heart and in their head that it’s not.”
She added: “There’s a profound lack of courage among too many in both main parties, who don’t want to speak the truth as populism engulfs the country.”
The best outcome is a People’s Vote with remain absolutely on the ballot paper
Criticising is one thing, but what would Soubry herself have done differently? “We accepted the outcome of the 2016 referendum. I voted to trigger Article 50 and hoped we could build a consensus which would do the least harm to the country.”
It’s worth noting, however, that Soubry believes that any kind of Brexit would negatively impact the British economy; on her account, anything less than Remain would have been damaging.
Nevertheless, she said, “the prime minister made it clear that she would not shift from the red line of ruling out either the customs union or a single market. It was a consensus that was there in parliament; the Conservative Party leadership simply refused to embrace it.”
“The 48 per cent were abused and dismissed. A hard Brexit, which the majority of people – even of those who voted Leave – did not vote for, and which was certainly not promised, was then effectively embarked upon.”
What does Soubry think should happen now: “The best outcome is a People’s Vote with remain absolutely on the ballot paper.”
“If the government is prepared to deliver on Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, let the people decide.”