- Tory MP George Freeman says the UK could face an economic meltdown
- Britain formally leaves the EU at 11pm UK time on Friday, March 29, 2018
- Macron sent letter of support to a 'Big Tent' political rally hosted by Freeman
Emmanuel Macron is backing a controversial move by Tory and Labour MPs to join forces to counter the risk of Brexit fuelling a rise in UK extremism.
The French President has endorsed a bid by Theresa May's former No 10 policy chief to forge a new cross-party 'coalition' of MPs opposed to a 'no-deal Brexit'.
Tory MP George Freeman says the UK faces a 'Black Monday' economic meltdown if, as an increasing number of politicians predict, it withdraws from the EU without an agreement in March.
Mr Macron's letter in English
The President of the Republic,
MP George Freeman,
I have received the correspondence by which you invite me to deliver a speech at the Big Tent Ideas Festival, to be held on the 7th and 8th in Cambridge.
Sensitive to your approach, I thank you very much.
Like you, I am determined to take up the great challenges of the planet in order to build a more secure world, which guarantees more growth of justice and ecology.
Also, although the constraints of my schedule unfortunately do not allow me to respond favorably to your kind request, I would like to welcome your initiative and wish you all the best for the success of the new edition of this event.
I am convinced that this forum will contribute fully to the reflection on the issues we are jointly facing. In renewing my thanks, I beg you to believe, sir, the assurance of my best feelings.
Mr Macron has sent a letter of support to a 'Big Tent' political rally being hosted by Mr Freeman in Cambridge next month.
Mr Freeman, head of the Conservative Policy Forum, denies it is part of a plan to build a new centre party. He says the aim is to produce 'inspiring new ideas' to ensure post-Brexit Britain is a success.
But he linked it to a stark warning that a 'no-deal Brexit' could lead to a repeat of the so called 'Black Wednesday' in 1992 when Britain crashed out of the EU's Exchange Rate Mechanism.
John Major's Tory Government never recovered from the ensuing economic crisis – and Labour won the next three General Elections.
Mr Freeman says he fears a Brexit 'Black Monday' would do the same and result in Jeremy Corbyn leading a minority 'Hard-Left' Government.
If it did, Mr Freeman says Tory MPs like him could form a 'coalition' with moderate Labour MPs to keep Mr Corbyn out of No 10.
Equally, if it resulted in a minority 'Hard-Right' Tory Government led by Boris Johnson or Jacob Rees-Mogg, moderate Conservative MPs could join forces with Labour MPs to keep them out of power too.
Leading Tory and Labour figures are to attend Mr Freeman's 'Big Tent' event, which is being co-hosted by Baroness Sally Morgan, a former No 10 aide to Tony Blair.
Harriet Harman, ex-Blairite Minister Liam Byrne and anti-Corbyn Labour MP Ian Austin will rub shoulders with Cabinet Ministers Michael Gove and Liz Truss. Scots Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has pledged her support.
Mr Macron came to power after breaking away from France's Left-wing Socialist Party with his En Marche (Forward) movement, which crushed the Hard-Right Front National. He has been called a 'French Tony Blair'.
Mr Freeman, a descendant of Liberal Prime Minister William Gladstone, said he was 'delighted' to have Mr Macron's support, though some are bound to accuse the President of meddling in British politics.
In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, the MP said: 'We must recast the language and vision of Brexit. It should be a noble end not a divisive and triumphalist divorce. We will not be thanked by people – even those who voted for Brexit – who were told they were going to become richer if they become poorer. Unless we build a big tent in the centre for those alienated by Hard-Left Corbynism or Hard-Right (Nigel) Farageism, the Tories will end up as a teepee party piling up votes in traditional heartlands but losing its backbone support in London, from the professional classes, doctors, teachers, science and business.'
The MP, who backed Remain in the EU referendum, insisted he did not wish to reverse Brexit and denied his 'Black Monday' forecast was part of 'Project Fear.'
Britain formally leaves the EU at 11pm UK time on Friday, March 29. The impact will be clearer when the markets open on Monday, April 1. Mr Freeman explained why a 'no-deal' outcome would be a catastrophe for the nation – and the Tories.
'If we get Brexit wrong and crash out without a proper transition agreement, we risk a Black Monday. The sight of a Conservative Government pushed into no-deal and losing control will look to a whole generation like the disastrous Black Wednesday in 1992 which we paid for with 15 years in opposition. We would be seen to have abandoned our core pillar of economic competence.'
Mr Freeman favours a 'Norway style' Brexit, with the UK paying to stay in the European Economic Area – coupled to a five-year ban on immigrants claiming welfare in Britain.
His main fear is that a 'no-deal' Brexit could lead to Corbyn scraping into Downing Street without an overall majority.
He says in that event, Blairite Labour MPs would be ready to 'abandon' the Labour leader. But they would only join forces with the Conservatives if the Tories were a 'sensible One Nation style' party – not a 'narrow, isolationist, nationalistic Ukip-style' party.
'We could reach across to moderate Blairites looking down the barrel of a Corbyn Hard-Left minority Government and say 'come and join us in a coalition for prosperity',' said Mr Freeman.
He may do likewise to defy a minority Hard-Right Tory Government led by Johnson or Rees-Mogg. 'If we end up with someone leading the Tory Party shamelessly pandering to the Farageite Ukip wing, we will cease to have a majority in Parliament or be supported by mainstream voters.'
Challenged whether, in such circumstances, Mr Freeman would team up with Labour moderates to defy them, he does not dodge the question: 'It must work both ways.'
He dismisses the idea that talk of 'coalition' with Labour is treachery. 'Conservatives must think about governing through coalitions, which is quite likely. We're in coalition now – with the DUP.' Mr Freeman does not share Brexiteers' contempt for David Cameron's Coalition with the Lib Dems. Cameron won a Commons majority in 2015, he points out: Theresa May blew it in 2017.
'The nightmare scenario I fear and foresee is a divided Conservative Party putting its own ideological Brexit triumph ahead of economic competence and driving voters into the arms of Corbyn. Instead of reaching out to Blairites in exile, we lurch to the Right and justify the extremism of Corbyn. That is why we must create a space in the middle.'