As the debate around Brexit becomes more fractious and divisive, now is the time to reflect on what
it means to be a Conservative in 21 st Century Britain and why a No Deal Brexit is inherently
Fundamentally, to be a Conservative means to be pragmatic. It means supporting evidence-based
policy-making and being unbeholden to blind ideology. Conservatives recognise economic and
political realities and remain cautious of utopian ideals. To be a Conservative means respecting
democratic institutions, supporting personal freedom and spreading opportunity. It means economic
competence and being the champions of business. Conservatives take pride in the UK, its history and
values and seek a strong union between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Dominic Grieve, Chairman of the Conservative Group Europe, stated “it is a fundamentally
unconservative thing to do, to embark on a revolutionary—rather than the process of
evolutionary—change.” A No Deal Brexit is the very embodiment of revolutionary change. But it is
more than just this revolutionary nature that makes it unconservative. No Deal undermines
everything that being a modern Conservative means and the Conservative Party represents.
No Deal, the process of crashing out of the EU with no agreement and no transition period, would
not only cause disruption on an unparalleled scale but also force the UK to forfeit trade agreements
covering more than 70 countries. As trade deals take years, not months or weeks, to negotiate the
UK would be forced to conduct business with the rest of the world—including the EU—on WTO
terms. This would put Britain in the unenviable position of being just about the only member of the
WTO not to have any bilateral or regional trade agreements. These agreements exist precisely
because they allow better trade preferences than ‘WTO terms’.
For example, leaving out without a deal would create tariffs of around 45% on lamb exports.
Considering 92% of Welsh lamb exports go to the EU, the consequences would be severely
damaging. Such an act would deny—not spread—opportunity to Welsh farmers and severely
damage their livelihoods.
Businesses from all sectors demand a close relationship with our European partners and consistently
warn of the devastating impact of No Deal. A Conservative Party that no longer champions nor
listens to business ceases to be the Conservative Party.
By the Government’s own estimates, the UK economy would be 6.3%—9% smaller in long term, with
the poorer regions hardest hit. HMRC has calculated the administrative costs for businesses from
customs declarations alone to be around £13bn a year. Whilst the UK Trade Policy Observatory, a
collaboration between Chatham House and the University of Sussex, predicts over 745,000 jobs will
be lost across Great Britain in the event of No Deal. It is therefore clear; No Deal fails to adhere to
the Conservative principle of evidence-based policymaking. Instead it is the product of
unconservative blind ideology.
There is no mandate for No Deal. All the leading members of the Leave campaign supported a deal
during the referendum. Forcing it on the country now would be undemocratic and an insult to the
electorate. The suggestion of proroguing Parliament to prevent it exercising oversight of the
Executive during the end of our membership extension, is not just fanciful, it is disrespectful to our institutions. The idea that Disraeli, Churchill or Thatcher, even in their most difficult moments, would
have contemplated such a move is unimaginable.
A deal with the EU was meant to be “one of the easiest in human history” according to the
International Trade Secretary. Failure to achieve a deal followed by an act of great economic self-
harm will only render the UK an unreliable partner on the world stage and damage its international
Crucially, Conservatives are unionists. The potential of a No Deal Brexit to break up the United Kingdom is
both very real and very worrying. It will fuel the debate for Scottish independence and create a hard border
on the island of Ireland. For such an act to be committed when the Conservative and Unionist Party is in
government is almost incomprehensible.
The blame for all of this will rightly fall at the Conservative Party’s door.
Conservative politicians pandering to the increasingly narrow and unrepresentative Party
membership by making threats of a No Deal Brexit or proroguing Parliament, have forgotten what it
means to be a Conservative. They should remember the words of Disraeli, at a speech in Crystal
Palace in 1872, “the Tory Party, unless it is a national party, is nothing.”