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UK MP Anna Soubry trashes hard Brexit course

Birgit Maass
July 18, 2017

As the UK and EU try to hammer out the details of Brexit, Conservative MP Anna Soubry and a new cross-party group of legislators are fighting against the British government's strategy for leaving the EU. DW spoke to her.

UK MP Anna Soubry
Image: picture-alliance/empics/Yui Mok

DW: What is your personal motivation to be so vocal and to be leading this cross-party effort?

I want Parliament to be more involved, I want as many MPs to join our group as possible. We need to work together so that we get a sensible deal that puts jobs and the economy at the heart of Brexit. The worst thing to happen was that we would jump off a cliff, without any deal that allows us to trade with the EU without friction or tariffs.

Read: The Brexit Diaries: On briefcases, orchestras and Winnie the Pooh

How is the support you are getting from your own party members?

I think there's a realization that the general election has changed everything. The idea of a hard Brexit is for the fairies. I want Conservatives to stand up for what they believe is right and speak without fear or favor about the dangers of a hard Brexit, the dangers of not getting a Brexit which puts jobs and the economy absolutely at its heart.

It seems that within the Conservative Party you are really standing out in making the case for the EU. And the British press has accused you of being a shrill "Remoaner." Does that affect you?

Some newspapers are showering people with abuse just because they have a different point of view. But we live in a democracy, and we are lucky to have principles of free speech. So the onus is on newspapers to represent everybody in this country, and not just peddle some unpleasant stuff which is usually inaccurate and doesn't advance.

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And I can assure you that behind the scenes more and more people are realizing that we have got to form a consensus in order to get a sensible Brexit.

One crucial issue is immigration - the people who have voted for Brexit have voted against it.

I agree with you. But the reason for that is that actually nobody made the case and explained to people why immigration is so important to our economy, and the huge benefit it confers. Those people who make mutterings about too many immigrants often are people in areas where there are hardly any immigrants. And that really does show that there isn't an understanding.

Read: Are Theresa May's days numbered?

With the British government as divided as it is, the EU could be seen as fairly uncompromising in their negotiation tactics, making the most of the situation.

No, the EU is being realistic. The idea that the EU needs Britain more than Britain needs the EU is mad. The reality is the EU holds the cards. We need to recognize that fact, and all our leaders need to use responsible, mature, grown-up language.

So no more comments like "go whistle" from Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson?

That was absolutely disgraceful. As the foreign secretary, you don't speak to other countries and to other blocs like that. This is grown-up serious. This is the most serious thing this nation has done in over 40 years. It is not some jolly jape at some Eton debating club. And saying silly things like that undermines the credibility of not only our country but also of the great offices of government.

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Birgit Maass DW UK Correspondent@birgit_maass