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In the first joint interview they have ever given, Esther McVey and Philip Davies explain why as ardent Brexiteers they have decided to back Theresa May’s deal.

Attempts to get them to share details of the disagreements, if any, which they have had over the breakfast table proved a total failure.

But McVey and Davies both said that the only way that May will get her Brexit deal through the Commons is by promising that she herself will step down. As Davies put it:

“The only thing that probably would be enough would be if the Prime Minister announced she was going to stand down some time in the summer. I think for some people that would be the only thing that would persuade them.”

In McVey’s view, “a new negotiating team” is needed for the next phase of Brexit, and the party should say farewell to Maywith “kindness and thanks and dignity and gracefulness”.

McVey, who now sits for George Osborne’s old seat of Tatton,  resigned from the Cabinet in November in protest at the Prime Minister’s handling of Brexit, while Davies, MP for Shipley, is a long-standing Eurosceptic who carries on the late Eric Forth’s work as a backbencher never afraid to attack fashionable nonsense.

Davies fears that unless the May’s deal goes through, “we’re going to lose Brexit…and destroy the country”:

“I can’t see what the realistic alternative is to supporting this deal.

“I’ve gone down fighting on battles in Parliament all my life. I don’t need any lessons in going down fighting. I’ve spent 14 years going down fighting, on virtually every issue I’ve ever stood on.

“You don’t feel any better at the end of it knowing I went down fighting. All you know is that you’ve lost.

“I have invested too much in this to put myself in that position. Going down fighting is not success in my book.

“There are millions of people out there who are seething, absolutely seething.”

The interview was carried out yesterday morning, before the Speaker’s statement warning that he would not allow a third meaningful vote on the same motion as the second time.

ConHome: “Is this the first interview you’ve ever done jointly?”

Davies: “I think so, it is, isn’t it?”

McVey: “Yes.”

ConHome: “And how should I describe you?”

McVey: “As individuals.”

ConHome: “I know, but it’s generally known here at Westminster that you’re a couple, and in fact it says on Wikipedia…”

Davies: “It must be true then.”

ConHome: “…which is why I’m checking it, it describes each of you as ‘domestic partner’ to the other.”

Davies: “What does that mean?”

ConHome: “Well I don’t know what it means. If there’s some term you would rather…”

McVey: “We’re a couple.”

ConHome: “Very good.”

McVey: “Two individuals, but a couple.”

ConHome: “In households up and down the land, there has been argument about Brexit. And for a time, although you’re both staunch Eurosceptics, you disagreed about what to do about the meaningful vote.

“I know, Esther, you’ve now written your article for The Sunday Telegraph explaining why you have changed your mind and intend to support Theresa May’s deal. When you disagreed with Philip, what sort of conversations were you having with each other? What were the salient points?”

McVey: “We’ve both been on a very different journey. Philip was the first person in Parliament to say ‘better off out’. How we voted reflected our different journeys.”

Davies: “Our views have aligned, we both would like the same outcome, we both want to leave properly, and we both would have been happy to leave without a deal.

“And we both voted accordingly last week.

“Obviously I voted against the deal the first time round because it was a bad deal. And I hoped at that time that we could leave without a deal.

“But it just became apparent to me, and I’d suspected it all along really, if I’m brutally honest – I mean I voted against the Prime Minister in the vote of no confidence before Christmas, and one of the reasons I did that was because I really in my heart of hearts knew that the Prime Minister would not deliver what I wanted to see happen.

“And I took the view back then that anybody who was prepared to sign up to that deal clearly was not prepared to leave without a deal. So I’d always had this niggling concern that actually when it came to it she wouldn’t leave without a deal.

“In the days leading up to the second vote it just became apparent to me that she was never going to leave without a deal, it was just not going to happen.”

ConHome: “That needs the right kind of leader, doesn’t it. You’ve got to have a leader who instils confidence in this.”

Davies: “Who believes in it. It was 2005, just after I’d been elected, when I said we should leave the EU. I set up Better Off Out in 2006, long before it was fashionable. I’ve invested too much in this to lose it altogether.

“I got to the point where I was thinking, actually, in trying to get the outcome I want to see, I’m in danger of losing everything I’ve worked for over the last 14 years, and I just wasn’t prepared to do that.”

ConHome: “Esther, so when did you come round to it?”

McVey: “I had always been, and this was in Cabinet – obviously I stood down because I said this deal was a bad deal – but when I did that in November, when we were shown the Withdrawal Agreement, there was a time then when if enough people had given support on that, and I felt there were crucial moments over the last couple of months when you could have gone back and got a better deal.

“And when it came back to the House, and it lost with a historic defeat of 230, that must say the country doesn’t want it, the MPs don’t want it, you must be able to go back and negotiate something then. And nothing really happened then either, did it.

“Philip then said at the vote ‘I’m going to agree, because I think it’s the only way out’. And that was the loss of 149 on Tuesday of last week. I didn’t. This was where we didn’t agree. I said ‘No, I’m still going to stand firm, because there is still time to go back.’

“So on the Tuesday night, I’d sent messages back to Number Ten, to say if you lose it you can still go back [to Brussels to demand changes], because we still had on the table no deal.

“But then you saw no deal removed, and you saw the scale with which it was removed.

“This meant this [the Government’s deal] was the only deal in town to get out of the EU. More importantly, because I’m a democrat, so is obviously Davies as well, and yes I call him by his surname and not his first name…”

ConHome: “Mr Davies?”

McVey: “No, he doesn’t get a Mr. He gets just Davies. So what was most important there was we’d seen what could happen.

“So this was then the only deal in town, which was her deal, and basically what we had to from there was get out on that and then use the Brexit as a series of steps, not just a one-step change, and then you had to go to the next bit, which was a negotiation, and for that it has to be a different team to negotiate and move forward.

“With those votes, you saw the collapse of collective responsibility. And with the collapse of collective responsibility you saw no control over what could happen.

“You’ve now got a vote which was quite a dangerous vote, and we were probably lucky to win 314 to 312, and Caroline Spelman didn’t vote on that, so they’ve got the extra person for that vote, and if it does go evens, the Speaker would have the final say.

“And on this instance the Speaker might say, you’ve had one vote, you’ve had two votes, you’ve had three votes, and you haven’t decided. Now it is going to be taken under the control of Parliament and it could go to the people or something else could happen.

“What I’m saying is we are now in totally unknown territory, and we’ve given away all our leverage. And therefore we know what will happen is a long extension, then total uncertainty.

“So I’d say take on this bad deal, but at least you’re out the EU, and once out start negotiating for the next stage, and get a new negotiating team in.”

ConHome: “From the top, including the leader?”

McVey: “Well first of all get a brand new negotiating team.”

ConHome: “So you don’t want to say whether the Prime Minister should make way?”

McVey: “No. For me, as a Tory, and to keep the party together, I think it’s for the Prime Minister to decide that. She’s already said she won’t be there for the next election. So I think she needs to go in a dignified, graceful manner. We’ve got to thank her for what she’s done. I’ve spoken to the Prime Minister, I’ve spoken to her only on Saturday, but for me that’s private.”

ConHome: “But when do you want her to go?”

McVey: “For me that would be probably for the next set of the negotiations when they start.”

ConHome: “So Philip, come on, how has your thinking developed through this crisis, and particularly what have you sometimes said to Esther to try and…”

Davies: “Well, to be honest, it doesn’t really work like that. We discuss issues, but I don’t try to persuade Esther that she shouldn’t do something, and she doesn’t persuade me that I should do something.

“We discuss issues about what we’re thinking, but we then leave each other to make our own minds up.”

McVey: “He’s quite adamant on that. My Dad’s the other one who gives his tuppenceworth whenever he possibly can. But I like other people’s opinions. So I don’t take it as some kind of affront or upset if someone says ‘Oh I think what you said there Esther is a load of rubbish’.

“If you become a Tory in Merseyside, trust me, I’ve had everybody tell me that isn’t necessarily a good idea.”

Davies: “My view was, hold on a minute, the Prime Minister’s already said she was going to have the second meaningful vote and if it lost, the day after we were going to have the vote on leaving without a deal, and if that lost…

“To me, at that point the game was up. Once we were going down that road we’d had it. Parliament was never going to vote to leave without a deal.”

ConHome: “Actually in Brussels they would have known that already. So no deal had already been lost as a negotiating ploy.”

McVey: “But for me, you see, whereas Philip instinctively knew where the votes were going to go, and probably so did I, sometimes in life it’s really important that people see what’s happened. Because otherwise it’s only a guess.”

Davies: “I suspect that if she hasn’t got her deal through she will go for the longest possible extension. My fear is that we’re going to have a long extension of Article 50, and Lord knows what’s going to happen then.

“The chances are we may never leave. I just think the public would never trust the Conservative Party again. It would be curtains for the Conservative Party if we had a long extension.”

McVey: “For me it’s bigger than that. The public voted out. Not to do that democratic vote and to think there would be no repercussions is, well, as Philip would say, for the birds. There will be repercussions.”

Davies: “I can’t see what the realistic alternative is to supporting this deal.

“I’ve gone down fighting on battles in Parliament all my life. I don’t need any lessons in going down fighting. I’ve spent 14 years going down fighting, on virtually every issue I’ve ever stood on.

“You don’t feel any better at the end of it knowing I went down fighting. All you know is that you’ve lost.

“I have invested too much in this to put myself in that position. Going down fighting is not success in my book.

“There are millions of people out there who are seething, absolutely seething.”

McVey: “We’re getting emails from them. So we know they are. We see them every day.”

Davies: “More so than people appreciate, I think that people are seething.

“The one thing that sustained them, when they’ve been watching what they must consider to be an absolute farce and a travesty going on in Parliament, the one thing that sustained them throughout this period is that at least we’re leaving on 29th March.

“If we don’t get out, and get out fast, and get out in the fastest possible way now, whether perfectly or imperfectly, the stakes are too high to even contemplate what the consequences of that will be.

“I fear that we’re going to lose Brexit, and that we’re going to destroy the country.”

McVey: “When everybody here thinks we could maybe cope with another couple of years, what does that say to the public? We’ve actually confirmed the argument that it’s too difficult to leave.

“Delay is higher stakes, and the higher the stakes, the more uncertain where we’re going as well.

“We’ve worked out like a Rubik’s Cube the combinations, permutations, possibilities, eventualities…”

ConHome: “Do you ever decide not to talk about it?”

McVey: “No [prolonged laughter]. To be fair, I go to the pictures. It’s popcorn, visuals.”

Davies: “We don’t go as often as we’d like to, though, do we.”

ConHome: “How can she get this deal through?”

Davies: “The only thing that probably would be enough would be if the Prime Minister announced she was going to stand down some time in the summer. I think for some people that would be the only thing that would persuade them.

“Because speaking to some of my colleagues, they wouldn’t want to vote for a deal for the Prime Minister and think that it’s an endorsement of her.”

McVey: “When people say ‘How are the Tory Party going to come back together afterwards? How are we going to go back to the key things that make us all Tories?’

“I think how we look after and say goodbye to our Prime Minister and bring in the next one is key to that as well. I think that will be key in us healing, coming together. Kindness and thanks and dignity and gracefulness is key.”

42 comments for: Interview – Davies & McVey. They back May’s deal. “I don’t try to persuade Esther that she shouldn’t do something, and she doesn’t persuade me that I should do something.”

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