The Right Honourable Ann Widdecombe DSG, or as we call her in the Squib office, Auntie Widders, is a straight-shooting problem solver. If we had more MPs like Ann Widdecombe in government today we as a nation would not be in such a mess, or more specifically, the Tories would not be in such turmoil.
Ann was Member of Parliament (MP) for Maidstone and The Weald, and the former Maidstone constituency, from 1987 to 2010 and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for South West England from 2019 to 2020. After leaving the Conservative Party, she was a member of the Brexit Party from 2019 until it was renamed Reform UK in 2021; she rejoined Reform UK in 2023.
We are very grateful to Ann for agreeing to answer a few questions about Brexit and to highlight its continuing importance, even though it has been sidelined somewhat by the current Sunak regime, and is threatened even further by the incoming Labour government when the May General Elections are held.
The EU Referendum result of 2016 and hard-fought subsequent Brexit were one of the most important democratic events to have taken place in recent British history. The Daily Squib fought hard for it as did many Brexiteers, and we feel we have some responsibility to reiterate its continuing importance, especially regarding the sovereignty of the British Isles and global trade.
ANN WIDDECOMBE BREXIT INTERVIEW
Daily Squib: Can you explain why you believe that Brexit was crucial to the UK’s sovereignty, and how it has enhanced the nation’s ability to make independent decisions?
Ann Widdecombe: I was a Minister for nearly 7 years and realised in that time how very little Britain could control its own laws. Everything we did had to be compatible with EU law, regardless of the benefits to us of doing otherwise. The very definition of sovereignty is control over your own affairs. We did not have that.
DS: How do you respond to those who argue that the UK’s compatibility with the EU could have been improved through negotiations and reforms, rather than complete separation?
AW: Experience. David Cameron went off with much fanfare to obtain concessions from the EU prior to the Referendum, and came back with nothing.
DS: In your opinion, how has Brexit impacted the UK’s ability to control its borders and immigration policies, and do you consider this to be a positive outcome?
AW: Obviously since Brexit, we have had complete control of legal immigration in as much as we can decide whether people are admitted and on what terms. The failure to deal with illegal immigration is down to the Government and not to Brexit.
DS: Could you discuss the trade implications of Brexit for the UK and how it has influenced the nation’s economic sovereignty and flexibility?
AW: Since Brexit, we have implemented some very serious trade deals which will have a massive economic benefit.
DS: What do you see as the main benefits of the UK having the freedom to enter into independent trade agreements post-Brexit, and how has this impacted the nation’s global standing?
AW: The benefits speak for themselves. We can now trade on terms which suit us and the other country, rather than adhere to EU requirements.
DS: Some critics argue that Brexit has increased bureaucracy and challenges for UK businesses. How do you respond to these concerns and what measures do you believe can mitigate them?
AW: I refer you to Nissan which predicted that it would move its business from the UK and has now increased its business, claiming that the effects of Brexit on its operations have been “negligible”. That, however, does not please me because the effect would be beneficial if we made a bonfire of the EU regulations and started competing with the EU rather than shadowing it.
DS: Personal support for Brexit can be driven by various factors. What were the primary reasons that led you to support Brexit on a personal level?
DS: In retrospect, how do you view the implementation and negotiation process of Brexit, and what could have been done differently or more effectively?
AW: In retrospect, I say what I said at the time. The deal was appalling and effectively isolated Northern Ireland.
DS: How do you see the future relationship between the UK and the EU, and what are your hopes for the country now that it has officially left the European Union?
AW: I hope that ties between the UK and the EU will loosen over the coming years, that we will compete with the EU but build good relationships with the individual European countries.
DS: There was at one point talk of a ‘Singapore on the Thames’, but that never came into fruition. Do you think to some extent that the Tories squandered their mandate to create and maintain a valid Brexit?
AW: Of course, the Tories squandered their mandate. Why do you think I joined first the Brexit Party and then Reform?
DS: Should Britain leave the ECHR which many say is holding the country back from stopping the illegal migrant trafficking across the Channel, and do you think France has been complicit in encouraging illegal migration to the UK as a form of vindictive Brexit punishment?
AW: Yes, we should leave the ECHR and yes, France has been slack in stopping the boats. I think Macron’s motives are more to do with getting rid of the problem from French shores than with taking revenge for Brexit.
DS: If, and when Labour wins the next General Election, is it almost a certainty that Brexit will be in danger by the likes of Keir Starmer and his Cabinet?