Nstretched out to the desk in the office of Anna Soubry in the House of Commons is a framed front page of the Daily Telegraph of November 15, 2017. "The Brexit-mutineers" shouts the head, above photo's of the 15 Tories that had said that they would vote against anchoring 29 March 2019 as the date on which the UK would leave the EU. The parliamentary staff of Soubry received the front page signed by her fellow "mutineers" and had it framed as a birthday present last year. For her it is a sign of pride.
The fight against Brexit has dominated her life for the past two years. With Labor incoherent and Jeremy Corbyn – at least in Soubry – a committed Brexiter, it is for her and a handful of other backbenchers to keep busy for another referendum or, in the worst case, the softest possible Brexit.
Her office is full of memorabilia from the fight. On her desk are other newspapers that denounce the Brexit renegades: "Great Britain or great betrayal" shouts the sun; "Ignore the will of the people at your own risk" announces a front page of the Daily Express; a front page from Daily Mail has the headline "Proud of yourself?" above photo's of the 11 Tories that last December swore with the Labor party to defeat the government and require a "sensible vote" on the final Brexit deal (although the attempt to get such a vote eventually became a week later reports). I also see a letter from a Labor Member of Parliament who congratulates Soubry on her inspiring efforts to fly the EU flag.
Soubry is convinced that the deal that Theresa May hopes to recover from Brussels in the coming weeks will be worthless. "The promise was that we would have a deal about our future trade relationship with the European Union," she says. "Everything would be arranged, but we do not get a deal, we get a withdrawal contract and our future trade relationship will only be established after we leave the European Union – that's not what the British people were promised, that's not what they voted for. It is the most terrible betrayal, and when the history books are written about this period, it will be extremely bad for a lot of people who have put their heads in the sand and have allowed this terrible mistake. "
Her story about history books makes me wonder if Soubry thinks the battle is over. "I almost do not want to deal with people anymore," she says. "I just want to put it down for history: these opportunities existed and they were missed by people who should have known better.This will be the biggest mistake our country ever made, and young people will never forgive my party." Breathing, however, she says that the struggle for a "plebiscite" must be continued. She led the mood march of the people in London on October 20, and gave a powerful, passionate speech to a large crowd at Parliament Square, and still believes that the public can get a final vote.
"Everything is possible," she says. "If she [May] can not get a withdrawal agreement because of quarrels over the Irish backstop, which some absolutely irresponsible people in my party who are not running as fast as a booths believe it should be, what is plan B? Flew out? Even if she comes back with a deal, she might not get it through parliament and if she can not get it through parliament, what's plan B then? From what I can gather, she has no plan B, and of course the big plan B is a popular vote. A general election will not solve its problem, but a second referendum with remains on the ballot. "
Soubry predicts that a withdrawal deal will be picked up in Brussels and that parliament will vote on it next month. "There will be a hand movement [in Brussels] and a lot of warm words. It will soon return to the house – there will be none of these five days of debate, you can forget that – and the pressure on conservatives will be absolutely enormous. "She insists that she will not vote for a vague deal that avoids all the big questions about the future relationship of the UK with the EU, and she also thinks that the government will do its utmost to prevent the deal from being put into the house. changed and preference is given to a take-it-or-leave-it approach. "That would be a shameful betrayal of promises that were made," she says.
Her hope that there will be another referendum has increased because she doubts whether May, despite the pressure of the whip and the despair of MPs for a resolution, will get the agreement through the Commons. "It is quite clear that David Davis is not going to vote for everything she returns – and he will bring 20 or 30 rebels," she says. "He clearly sees his chance, this is part of his campaign to be the tough boy of the Brexit, he is the one on the radio, unfortunately not at all under pressure from John Humphrys. [Thursday’s edition of] Today? I had to go under the duvet and scream in the mattress, I was so angry. He becomes the champion for the [strongly pro-Brexit] European Research Group [ERG]. "Boris Johnson's chance of us using May has not completely disappeared, she says, but Davis is the one who is running.
Davis & supporters will interpret a Commons defeat for May as a green light without a deal, says Soubry, and so pro-EU MPs must be ready to counter-attack. "The idea that if you do not agree on her deal that you're voting for no deal at all," she says. "If you do not vote for her deal, you can absolutely have the opportunity to go back to the British people, and voting with the rest of the vote is the credible alternative to this madness."
She is of the opinion that the fact that Arron Banks' role in the leave campaign is now being examined has strengthened the case for another referendum. "It has disturbed a lot of leave voters, who suddenly think:" What is going on here? ", She says. "It adds to the feeling that a trick has been played on them." She was also supported by Channel 4 / Survation mega-poll of this week, which showed an eight point lead to stay. "I have felt the insecurity in the minds of people and I have always said that there could be a turning point when suddenly people say:" This is absolutely not the case. We have made a mistake and have the right to review the mistake we have made. & # 39; "
Jo Johnson's shocking resignation as a transport minister – he said the UK is "on its way to an incoherent Brexit that keeps us trapped in a subordinate relationship with the EU" and called for a second referendum – its optimism still further fueled that a popular vote is within reach. "I was aware that Jo had very serious concerns about the direction of the Brexit, and I do not think anyone should underestimate what a difficult choice is – and therefore what a remarkable and courageous decision – it is when you walk away from it. ministerial office I feel for him, but I am also very happy, I knew in the summer that he was very worried. & # 39;
But will his dismissal really make a difference? "He has not been in our flow of people," she says. "He is a fresh face and a fresh voice for the cause, who is always welcome, and he is greatly respected by the whole party, I do not know if his relationship with his brother [Boris Johnson] it affected, but it will certainly attract a lot of comment. Jo is not the only minister who shares these views and I hope that others will follow his example. We reach the time when people have to get up and be counted, because if they do not, we will sleepwalking to a disaster – and it does not have to be that way. "
She is afraid that the two front banks conspire to thwart a second referendum. "We run the risk that … the opposition and the government come together to prevent people from having the right to review the decision they made two and a half years ago," she says. "Two and a half years later, with everything that has cropped up, including the situation on the island of Ireland, you are betting your life that people have the right to change their mind." It is important in both front banks not to have a plebiscite. , which means that it must be in everyone's interest that we have one. "
She does not trust Corbyn to deliver what Labor members want – a new opportunity to vote on UK membership of the EU. "We know he wants to leave the European Union," she says. "Whatever he says in public, that's his position, and he wants us to leave with the worst kind of Brexit deal, because if things go wrong, his tactic is to say," There you are, this awful Brexit. is the guilt of the conservatives. "I'm afraid he will do it maneuver to deny people a voice."
She blames the Labor party's failure to offer constructive opposition in the last two years for much of the current mess. "We have a perfectly, blisteringly awful labor front bench," she says. "The way they have abandoned the British people will also be written in history, taking the lead in delivering the referendum, peace in Northern Ireland and prosperity in the country. They are the ones who should have defended the cause of the internal market and the customs union. "
Soubry mocked the Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab, about his sudden sense of the significance of the crossing from Dover to Calais to British trade. "The level of ignorance is breathtaking," she says, suggesting that Raab's predecessor was equally guilty. "David Davis said in an answer almost two years ago:" We will get a deal that delivers exactly the same benefits of the internal market and the customs union as we do now. "He did not say that this was our ambition, he said that we will get exactly the same conditions, which is why Labor used it in their six tests [against which the party will judge May’s Brexit deal]. It is all faint. "
She says that many other conservative MPs now recognize the merits of maintaining membership in the internal market and the customs union. "Some of us have been campaigning against this for two years, with considerable personal costs – death threats [from Brexiters]abuse, threats of deselection. I am very happy that some of my colleagues have seen the benefits of this job. It is only a shame that they did not really vote for it when they got the chance. That would have changed the course of Brexit history. & # 39;
Soubry, who is 62 next month and was elected to Broxtowe in Nottinghamshire in 2010 after successful careers as a journalist and barrister, has been attacked by members of her own party for the past two years because of her position on the Brexit. "Behavior that was considered unacceptable in normal times suddenly became acceptable," she says. "These people are so driven by a desire to get out of the European Union that nothing and nobody should stop them, it's a bit like the hard line Corbynistas: there's a cult name that follows, they're blind to everything else, it's is all about the Brexit, they are very organized, they exist at all levels within the party, it is their life's work and they have an absolute commitment that obscures their judgment. "
Given that she believes that the cultists of the ERG now largely determine the Tory policy, why is she still in the party? "I do not give in to these people," she says. "We already have these Ukip infiltrators and you have to stay and fight them, you have to stay true to what you believe in. The Labor party is a lost cause for anyone who is moderate and sensible and believes in that & # 39; left-of-center & # 39; -look on life, but my party is not completely lost yet and I believe there is a good chance that he will become healthy again. & # 39;
She may think her party may be saved, but she doubts that May will be the one to save it. "I think she will be expelled and we will get a leader from the right, supported by some of these people who have specifically joined the party to get rid of her," she says. If that leader was Boris Johnson, she would leave the party and sit down as an independent member of parliament, she says. "If he becomes a leader, I will leave," she says. "I do not serve in the same party as Boris Johnson, he has proven that he is unable to hold a high position, let alone be prime minister, he is not true to what he believes in. It was almost a stroke of a coin or leave was or remained, it was all for its own purposes, I have no time for him. & # 39;
While the cultists take over the right and left, does she see room for a new party in the center, building on the way she has worked with anti-Brexit Labor MPs like Chuka Umunna? "I know that there are millions and millions of people who feel that no one is representing them, but at the moment my focus is on Brexit and that's all I'm interested in," she says. "These are conversations and debates for another time."
On Brexit she seems to fluctuate between despair that the game has started and I hope that the voice of a people will help. Anyway, she says that there will inevitably be an investigation into the way the referendum was held and the hopelessly failed negotiations that followed. "You just know that in five or ten years there will be a huge investigation and that there will be anger of people – statements in parliament and all the other things that we've seen when we have other questions, or people like me still in life, I do not know, but the truth will come out. "