Theresa May is accused of mounting a Remainer ‘coup’ by David Davis’ former deputy

Theresa May was accused of mounting a Remainer ‘coup’ last night as she admitted that Downing Street has been considering a ‘common rule book’ with the EU for months.

Steve Baker, who last week resigned as former Brexit secretary David Davis’s deputy, accused the Prime Minister of sidelining the Department for Exiting the EU, and relying instead on advice from Cabinet Office officials led by her aide Oliver Robbins.

Mr Baker said ministers and officials had been working for weeks on a White Paper that would have put the UK on a ‘different course’ to the plan outlined at Chequers. ‘Then we find at the last minute the Cabinet Office Europe unit sweeps in with a different proposal,’ he said.

Steve Baker MP (pictured) served as David Davis’ deputy during his tenure as Brexit Secretary

He added: ‘It must be the case that for months, large sections of the Government were working on the Chequers plan, and they’ve just had a coup de grace at the last minute. I feel pretty sore about that.’ Mr Baker said the deal had put the country on course for ‘political disaster’.

In a separate intervention yesterday, Mr Davis said it was ‘astonishingly dishonest’ for No 10 to suggest that Brexiteer ministers had offered no alternative to the Chequers plan.

The former Brexit secretary said his ministers and officials had been working on detailed proposals ‘based on the Prime Minister’s speeches’, which would have seen the UK adopt equivalent standards to Brussels without having to slavishly follow EU law.

Mrs May yesterday acknowledged that the proposal for a common rule book for goods had been in the pipeline since early this year, when the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier made it clear that he would never accept the idea of regulatory ‘equivalence’ as the basis for a frictionless trade deal.

Mr Baker claimed large parts of the Chequers plan were kept secret from him and Mr Davis (pictured)

Mr Baker claimed large parts of the Chequers plan were kept secret from him and Mr Davis (pictured)

She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: ‘This is something that has been in gestation for some time. And the reason it’s been there is because we have been talking to the European Union and they have made clear that what we proposed in [the Mansion House speech in March] – this particular aspect – was not negotiable.’

Mrs May denied keeping Mr Davis in the dark, but acknowledged that she had allowed officials to draw up rival proposals to those being devised by his department. ‘I’ve been talking with David Davis about the approach that we should be taking,’ she said. ‘He knew – we have been talking about this for some time.’

Whitehall sources also stressed that the idea of a common rule book had been discussed by Mrs May’s Brexit ‘war cabinet’ of which Mr Davis was a leading member.

One insider said: ‘David Davis knew about, but didn’t agree with it. In the end, that’s why he resigned.’

Theresa May's Chequers plan has been widely criticised since it was published for the first time

Theresa May’s Chequers plan has been widely criticised since it was published for the first time

Writing in The Sunday Times yesterday, Mr Davis said the plans for a common rule book on goods and farm products would leave Britain’s ‘fingers caught in the mangle’. ‘None of this really amounts to taking back control,’ he said. ‘Some are saying that those on the other side of the argument have not worked out an alternative … That is an astonishingly dishonest claim.’

Mr Baker said there was still ‘just’ time for Mrs May to change course. He warned that if she did not, she could further split the Tory party and usher in a Labour government.

‘I hope the public’s eyes will be opened to what’s going on today,’ he told the Sunday Telegraph. ‘An establishment elite who never accepted the fundamental right of the public to choose democratically their institutions, are working towards overturning them.’

Mr Baker said the public would eventually ‘know they’ve been betrayed’, adding: ‘If we spoil and wreck Brexit, which Chequers does, then we will get Jeremy Corbyn. That would be a cataclysm.’


Britain’s economy could be boosted by 7 per cent if it makes a clean break with EU red tape, according to a study published today.

The Institute for Economic Affairs urged Theresa May not to ‘box the UK into a corner’ by accepting a common rule book with the EU – as proposed in her Chequers plan.

The free market think-tank says ‘regulatory autonomy’ holds the key to the UK’s post-Brexit success, as it would free British business from the dead hand of EU red tape.

The study suggests that if the UK and new trade partners in the Pacific agree a bonfire of red tape on trade, annual GDP could be boosted by 7.25 per cent over the next 15 years.

Shanker Singham, director of the IEA’s international trade and competition unit, said: ‘Pro-competitive regulation is essential for the UK economy, and the vital first step is regulatory autonomy.

‘Unfortunately, the Chequers deal as it is would prevent the UK creating its own regulation and signing advanced trade deals.

‘It would badly hinder economic growth.

‘In order for the UK to be able to seize the benefits of Brexit, which are in the execution of its independent trade policy and improving its own regulatory system, it is crucial it have regulatory autonomy so that it can be a credible trading partner.’

Mrs May yesterday insisted a common rule book would not hamper new trade deals as there was no public demand to cut standards.