MP comes full circle as he plans for Brexit

Five years ago Stewart Jackson resigned from government after publicly supporting a referendum on the European Union '“ now he is back at Whitehall helping Britain orchestrate its departure from the political body.

Sunday, 1st January 2017, 12:00 pm
Updated Monday, 9th January 2017, 12:40 pm
Referendum Count at Kingsgate Centre for Peterborough. Stewart Jackson, Wayne Fitzgerald and John Peach  - from the Leave campaign EMN-160623-231356009
Referendum Count at Kingsgate Centre for Peterborough. Stewart Jackson, Wayne Fitzgerald and John Peach - from the Leave campaign EMN-160623-231356009

The MP for Peterborough has the title of Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis.

His role is to represent the views in government of his parliamentary colleagues who until July he was sharing the backbenches with.

The outspoken Tory is now back inside the tent rather than making life difficult from the outside.

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“To be involved in politics and government at this time – it’s an historical moment,” he said. “Our relationship with Europe and the world is changing and we are part of that. It’s quite a privilege.

“My main job is to keep my colleagues in Parliament happy, that they have good access to the secretary of state. Lots are coming with suggestions for what should happen.

“A few weeks ago I met people from a variety of different businesses. Lots of people write to me asking for a meeting.”

There are perks to being in government, including the opportunity to represent the UK abroad.

“I went to Portugal and met the foreign affairs committee and foreign ministers and got some feedback. I spoke to some Danish property people in August, and when I travelled to Germany there was a feeling of hurt,” said Mr Jackson.

“People in Europe have much more of an emotional attachment to the EU because of history. They see the EU as a noble endeavour.”

Mr Jackson has long campaigned for an EU referendum.

Back in October 2011 he defied a three-line whip and resigned as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Northern Ireland Secretary of State by supporting a motion in Parliament which called for the UK to have a referendum.

That vote went his way in June, but since then there have been fears over the economy and the personal situations of EU migrants who have still not been guaranteed they can stay here post-Brexit.

Mr Jackson said: “Most of the electorate want to invoke Article 50 and get on with negotiations. People in Peterborough want certainty on their future. It’s unfortunate we’ve not been able to do that because of the decision of the EU not to negotiate before.”

EU migrants receive permanent residency rights once you have lived in the UK for more than five years.

Asked why Prime Minister Theresa May does not guarantee that all EU residents can stay here permanently, Mr Jackson replied: “She is more than happy to do that today if the other countries were willing to reciprocate.

“They can be reassured that if they are honest, decent, tax-paying folk who want to make a decent life in the UK, I will be fighting for them to stay here.”

In the meantime, the Government is preparing to trigger Article 50 (the mechanism for leaving the EU) in the spring, despite fighting a legal ruling that it requires the approval of Parliament first.

Mr Jackson says he will not resign for a second time unless the deal agreed crosses two red lines, he said: “EU law should be subservient to UK law in the future, and we will only accept the jurisdiction of the UK courts and not the European Court of Justice.

“And we must control our borders and make our own laws and be free to make free trade agreements across the world with other countries which we’ve not been able to do since 1973.”

He added: “Inherently I trust ministers. I think they are all committed to getting the best deal. Do I think we will get the absolutely perfect deal? No I don’t. Do I think we will get a good deal? Yes.

“There’s no such thing as hard Brexit, soft Brexit or grey Brexit. We are in the EU or out.”

Leaving the single market, though, is not a red line, despite 60 of Mr Jackson’s fellow Conservative MPs calling on Britain to move away from the EU trade bloc.

“We should not rule anything out before negotiations,” he said.

The Tory MP says he has no doubts that Brexit will happen, and that the Government will be ready by the end of March.

And he also hit back at forecasts from the Office for Budget Responsibility that Brexit will cost the country £59 billion over the next five years. “The predictions were slightly over-egged. That figure is predicted on tariffs and there not being free trade agreements.”

MP’s true love for Europe

Stewart Jackson has a real love affair with Europe.

Yes, you heard that right.

And we’re not just talking about the paella or German beer - his favourite European food and drink.

It was actually at the The Santa Justa Elevator (Elevador de Santa Justa) in Lisbon that the Peterborough MP and Eurosceptic proposed to his wife Sarah.

And they celebrated with “champagne and crackling pork,” he said.

The honeymoon was taken in Cyprus, but the love affair with Europe has continued with skiing in Austria and trips to other countries, including Malta, which has “the bluest sea I’ve ever seen.”

Asked who his favourite European leader is, Mr Jackson replied: “I met the Polish Prime Minister [Beata Szydło] in Downing Street and she was quite impressive. She’s very much the same as Theresa May.”

PM has ‘dry sense of humour’

Theresa May is good at keeping her cards close to her chest, but she does have a dry sense of humour according to MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson.

Former Chancellor Ken Clarke may have called the Prime Minister a “bloody difficult woman” in unguarded comments, but Mr Jackson likes Mrs May’s style, saying she is “tough and does things properly - business-like.”

He added: “The sort of Blair, Cameron cronies on the sofa approach - we’ve moved on from that. We need serious people for serious times and she is serious.

“She wants to know what’s going on but is details focused. She keeps her cards close to her chest.”

Mr Jackson, who backed Andrea Leadsom over Mrs May to become Prime Minister when David Cameron resigned, also recalled a more humorous moment with his nine-year-old daughter Isabel when the then Home Secretary visited his garden for a function back in 2014.

“She was excellent. It was a scorching day in July but she made a special effort to meet everyone.

“After an hour-and-a-half it was time to go. She had heavy armed police with her, and as she was leaving the car drew up.

“My daughter and her friend then stepped forward. My daughter said to Mrs May, ‘I hear you’re in charge of spies. I would like a job as a spy kid’.

“She replied deadpan, ‘It’s all done on the internet now. Send me in your application and I promise to look out for it’.