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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Brexit needs new party to stop it, says former Brexit secretary aide

James Chapman, who was previously British minister David Davis’ Chief of Staff, has called upon Remain-supporting MPs to form a new party

James Chapman (L) worked as Chief of Staff to Brexit secretary David Davis until June 2017. Credit: PA
James Chapman (L) worked as Chief of Staff to Brexit secretary David Davis until June 2017. Credit: PA

Opponents of the British exit from the European Union (Brexit) should join a new party to resist an oncoming national calamity, the former chief of staff of the ministry in charge of leaving the bloc has declared.

James Chapman, a former journalist and aide to both David Davis, the Brexit secretary and George Osborne, the finance minister, unleashed a series of fundamental criticisms of the exit policy on Twitter.

The tweets amounted to a litany of intractable problems that would result from Brexit, some of which appeared to be drawn from internal government assessments of the consequences of leaving the EU.

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In a series of Twitter posts beginning on Tuesday evening, Mr Chapman said cross-party MPs who supported the Remain vote in the referendum should join a new party, which would be called the “Democrats”.

He wrote: “Past time for sensible MPs in all parties to admit Brexit is a catastrophe, come together In new party if need be, and reverse it #euref19.”

Mr Chapman, who also served as Director of Communications for former Chancellor George Osborne, said that MPs in the Conservative Party such as Anna Soubry and Grant Shapps had more in common with some Labour politicians than Brexiteers in their own party.

He went on to challenge ministers, such as transport secretary and Leave campaigner Chris Grayling, to provide answers about what would replace existing arrangements with the EU.

However, politicians have said that a new centrist party would be doomed to fail as others had done before.

Andrew Adonis, a former aide to Labour prime minister Tony Blair, tweeted: “I'm as alarmed by Brexit as anyone but new party no salvation. I was in SDP; it failed. If you are on Left, stay with Labour. Argue it out!”

While Labour MP Wes Streeting praised Mr Chapman for his “warning” but said a new party was not necessary.

He tweeted: Striking warning from a notable source. Doesn't need a new party though. Just enough MPs with the courage to put country first if all fails.

Mr Chapman alleged that British airlines would would be unable to sell 80% of flights by March 2018 and predicted a decade of budget cut backs as “businesses flee and revenues collapse”. Pointing out economic pitfalls, he added US media giants were leaving London and said new trade deals beyond the EU would be more difficult than the moon landings.

He suggested there was an opportunity to force a government u-turn when MPs were asked to approve depart from the lower tier Europe Economic Area next year.

“There is no majority in parliament for leaving the EEA, so the government is going to have to shift its position,” he said.

The Conservative aide, who resigned from his post in May when the general election was called, also suggested that Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, violated electoral law during the referendum campaign, by suggesting £350 million would be freed up by leaving the EU and redirected into health care.

His call for parliamentarians to regroup into a new political force dedicated to stopping Brexit received a mixed response. “Past time for sensible MPs to admit Brexit is a catastrophe, come together in a new party if need be and reverse it,” he wrote.

Vince Cable, the leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats, seized on the call to reverse the process. “The public should have a chance to exit from Brexit.”

Wes Streeting, a Labour MP, said MPs didn’t need to formally join a new party but have “the courage to put the country first if all fails.”

Janan Ganesh, an influential political commentator, used a column in the Financial Times this week to argue that any effort to set up a new party should ruthless focus on the Brexit issue. “To avoid dividing into smithereens, the new movement he wants to midwife into existence must reduce its decisions to just the one,” he wrote. “It must be an anti-Brexit force and, at least for a while, nothing else. People could join without having to air their views on other subjects, much less reconcile them with those of other members.”

Theresa May has ordered officials to regroup to salvage the troubled Brexit process. A new ‘engagement’ team has been launched to spearhead a diplomatic offensive on Britain’s role in Europe following its departure. For the first time Foreign Office and Brexit department officials will work jointly to enhance dialogue with other governments.

Robin Niblett, director of the London-based foreign policy think tank Chatham House, told Politico that the initiative was sorely needed.

“During the last big push for ‘Global Britain,’ prior to Brexit, the government raised the number of British diplomats in India, China, the Gulf, while cutting back some of the human capacity in European capitals. Now the government is having to do some re-engineering to bring back that capability to prepare for the pointy end of the Brexit negotiation,” he said.

“But the government has to be clear that we are negotiating with Brussels and that we do have clear ideas on everything from fisheries to farming to air traffic control, and on the whole negotiating position with the EU, right down to granular details.”