Former Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson remains positive about Brexit after leaving government role

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If the reports in the national media are true we will soon have ‘super-gonorrhoea’, we’ll all be fighting over the last tin in the supermarkets and hospitals will be deciding which patients deserve their final dollop of medicine.

That is if we crash out of the EU next March without a deal which seems increasingly likely with Theresa May’s Chequers strategy coming in for huge criticism from many of her own Conservative MPs.

From left, Stewart Jackson with David Davis, former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and High Commissioner for Malta, Stuart Gill.

From left, Stewart Jackson with David Davis, former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union and High Commissioner for Malta, Stuart Gill.

A man well placed to judge how the country will fare after Brexit is Stewart Jackson, the former Conservative Peterborough MP who until a month ago was in the heart of government serving as the right-hand man to the then Brexit Secretary David Davis.

That was until Mr Davis surprisingly quit his position after claiming the Chequers negotiating position was making it look “less and less likely” that the Conservatives would deliver their manifesto commitment to leave the Customs Union and the Single Market.

Mr Jackson followed Mr Davis out the door of Number 9 Downing Street, which has freed him up to have his say on the last two years inside the Government as both Mr Davis’ Parliamentary Private Secretary and chief of staff.

So who better to ask if reports about the possible negative effects of a No Deal next March are legitimate or just scaremongering?

Mr Jackson on the campaign trail during the referendum

Mr Jackson on the campaign trail during the referendum

“The British people know there might be a little bit of disruption but it will be worth it in the end for getting back our sovereignty and being a free, independent, globally-facing trading nation,” he said.

“People are not stupid and the voters know what they wanted and they expect us to deliver it, and I’m still optimistic that we will.

“When I talk to the national media I talk about my experience canvassing in Dogsthorpe in the referendum campaign. I remember specifically meeting someone who told me the whole family were voting to Leave and they hadn’t voted in a general election in over 20 years because they felt that it didn’t matter how they voted in a general election because the politicians always mess up.

“But they were voting in the referendum because their vote counted as much as anyone else’s and they really thought it would matter.

“Now if you say to these people ‘thanks for your feedback but we’re actually going to ignore you’, I think people will be very cross and it’s not good for politics.”

Looking relaxed after a few days off, Mr Jackson, who was MP in Peterborough from 2005 to 2017 before losing the seat to Labour’s Fiona Onasanya, visited the Peterborough Telegraph’s office to share his thoughts with his former constituents, including why he does not believe the city will be much affected straight after Brexit, with the possible exception of Perkins, which is part of Caterpillar.

He said: “There won’t be that much change, except perhaps for Perkins.

“But companies like Caterpillar will be making contingency plans in case there is short-term disruption in the event of a No Deal.”

Looking at Peterborough with his political hat on Mr Jackson sees electoral trouble brewing in the city, where he is president of the Conservative Association, if the Government does not secure a good Brexit deal.

He said: “My message to the Prime Minister is that if you want to win back a seat like Peterborough you’ve got to be true to what you said consistently over the last two or three years. If you’re not then there’s a chance UKIP will cost the Conservative Party this seat.

“UKIP didn’t stand a candidate last time but they will be back with a vengeance in places like Peterborough unless the Conservative Party trust the people and deliver on Brexit.”

Speaking more generally, Mr Jackson added: “There will be a big undermining in people’s faith and trust in politics if they feel that the political elite are ignoring them.

“Everyone said it’s a once in a generation vote, we’re not going to keep revisiting it, we will respect what you decide, the Government will follow your instructions to leave the EU.

“I think if there is any attempt to trick the British public into staying half in and half out of the EU, I think there’ll be a great deal of anger and resentment and justifiably so.

“But I still think the British people will get largely what they voted for.”

Despite the disappointment at no longer working next door to the Prime Minister, Mr Jackson remains proud to have worked in the Department for Exiting the European Union (DEXEU) where he was involved in development of policy, liaising with government departments and Parliament as well as being flown out to meet foreign officials.

“I feel honoured to have had that opportunity. It was always the case that if David Davis left office I would go with him. We discussed his resignation for several days before he did it,” he said.

Criticisms of Leavers who were in the cabinet before resigning in opposition to the Chequers agreement - which included a “common rulebook for all goods” and a “combined customs territory” - were that they did not have a plan, but Mr Jackson labelled that “a myth”, adding: “We had a plan, we outlined what the plan was and we were working to it.

“The Prime Minister changed it at the last minute with Olly Robbins, her Europe adviser. We were always butting heads with Number 10. They were always pushing back trying to delay things.

“We prepared in the DEXEU department a best in class free trade agreement which was the policy the Prime Minister spoke about.

“It was only in the last few weeks that the policy changed and the cabinet was bounced into what I think is an abject capitulation at Chequers. It’s not going to get through Parliament, and if the Prime Minister tries to get it through with Labour votes I think there will be a new Prime Minister.”

‘I won’t stand as MP here again’

The Peterborough Telegraph asked Mr Jackson what he is going to do next. He said: “One of my jobs is to work with business and commerce to try and demystify Brexit because a lot of people in business are either confused or terrified about what it means.

“I’ve moved on in Peterborough and will not be standing for election here again.

“I’ve got lots of strings to my bow and I look forward to doing different things. And I haven’t ruled out coming back at some stage in the House of Commons but it will be under a different leader if that happens.” Mr Jackson also said he does not believe Peterborough “has got the voice” with current MP Fiona Onasanya that it had under him, adding: “I think the current Member of Parliament has not really raised the profile of the city very much.”