Margaret Thatcher's Former Aide: UK Should Approve Brexit, Deal or No Deal

March 14, 2019

By Carlo Versano

The vote by U.K. parliament to reject a no-deal Brexit is a "slap in the face" to the 17 million Britons who voted in 2016 to leave the European Union, according to a former aide to Margaret Thatcher.

Nile Gardiner, who runs the Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation, spoke to Cheddar as British MPs gathered in London for their third vote in as many days over the fate of the Brexit referendum. Later Thursday, Parliament voted to seek a delay in Britain's withdrawal from the EU.

Speaking before the vote, Gardiner, a Brexit hard-liner, said he was optimistic that the country will leave the EU ー deal or no deal.

"It is imperative that the British government respects the will of the British people here and delivers on Brexit," he said.

Gardiner waved off worries that Britain would suffer economically under a hard Brexit, saying the country will "do perfectly well under a no-deal scenario" given its strong trade relationships with countries like the U.S. and its role in the WTO. Brexit "leavers" like Gardiner have argued that the U.K. will be able to eliminate the vast majority of existing tariffs on goods that are currently imposed by the EU, as well as exert control over its borders and make its own laws. "Britain's always going to do well," he said, adding that the nation deserves its own sovereignty: "Britain is not a truly free nation" until it leaves, he said.

Nearly three years after the referendum that approved exiting the EU, Britons remain deeply divided about the best course of action. According to a recent Politico poll, a plurality of voters said they would prefer to remains in the EU.

Public sentiment on Prime Minister Theresa May is more concrete. Half of all voters think she needs to resign, including a quarter of the members of her own party. Just a third of voters think she should stay on, according to that poll.

Gardiner called May the antithesis of his former boss, Margaret Thatcher. If Thatcher had been running the show during Brexit negotiations, the country would have been negotiating from a position of strength, rather than May's "weak-kneed" approach toward Brussels, he said.