Miss Widdecombe, who served as a Brexit Party MEP alongside Nigel Farage after being elected to the European Parliament last year, fears current PM Boris Johnson‘s refusal to walk away from negotiations once and for all will see the UK saddled with what she calls a “lousy deal. However, she said it would not have been the case had Mrs Thatcher, who led the UK from 1979 to 1990, still been in charge.
Miss Widdecombe, who served as minister of state for Employment and also minister of state for Prisons under Mrs Thatcher’s successor, John Major, said: “I think that when the first deadline expired for a proper deal she would have said that’s it.
“But I also think that she would never have gone down this route of a new treaty.
“She would have said we are leaving and that’s it.
“She would have said we are repudiating the Paris treaty, we are leaving and that is the end of it.
“She would never have signed the withdrawal agreement.”
Miss Widdecombe suggested Mrs Thatcher, had she, rather than Boris Johnson, replaced Theresa May last year the UK would have walked out at that point.
“But a country can repudiate a treaty at any time – you are never bound by a treaty in perpetua.
“And we would have a trade deal.
“Instead of which, what he has been saying is we will keep it as long as we can get a trade deal.
“And it is beginning to look like we will not get that trade deal.”
Speaking last month, Mr Johnson appeared to set a hard deadline of October 15 for a trade deal to be wrapped up.
But while he has suggested a lack of progress means the UK should start preparing to exit the transition period on December 31 on WTO terms, cabinet colleague Michael Gove has since said the door remains ajar.
Miss Widdecombe is fearful the result will be something manifestly unsatisfactory.
She explained: “I think for the sake of averting a few difficult weeks – and I think it will be weeks not months – they will sign up for a lousy deal.”
Speaking to Sky News today, junior Business Minister Nadhim Zahawi said the Government saw no point in talking with the EU about a Brexit trade deal until the bloc started to treat Britain as a sovereign state.
He said: “We are trying to get a deal.
“Until you make it very clear that you are willing to negotiate with us as an equal, as a sovereign, then there’s no point simply just paying lip service saying you know ‘we’ll intensify’ negotiations.”