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Conservative MP Andrea Jenkyns Discusses Upcoming Vote On Draft 'Brexit' Deal

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

The ball is back in Britain's court, the ball in this case being Brexit. Ever since Britain voted to leave the European Union, the devil has been in the details on exactly how to make that happen. Well, over the weekend, European leaders signed off on a deal laying out the terms of the divorce. Now it falls to British Prime Minister Theresa May to try to sell those terms back home. Britain's parliament will vote on her proposal next month, December 11. And formal withdrawal will start in March.

Our next guest is one of the people who will be voting on May's proposal, Andrea Jenkyns. She's a member of Parliament from the Prime Minister's own Conservative Party. Welcome.

ANDREA JENKYNS: Thank you very much. Great to be on your show. Thank you.

KELLY: So you are a Brexit supporter, a self-described Brexiteer, as the lingo goes. How are you planning to vote on Theresa May's draft deal?

JENKYNS: I think there's only one sensible way to vote on this, and it's to vote down the deal. I mean, the prime minister's political declaration keeps us too closely tied to the European Union. And it doesn't deliver on the vote to the referendum, unfortunately.

KELLY: Does that mean you believe there is a better deal to be had?

JENKYNS: Completely. But, you know, primarily I'm a democrat. And I believe in democracy. You know, we had a referendum. Seventeen-point-four million people voted to leave. That's a million more people than voted to remain. And...

KELLY: But you also obviously believe in reality and facts.

JENKYNS: Yes.

KELLY: And Theresa May and European leaders have said - after this past weekend, they said this is as good as it's going to get.

JENKYNS: Yeah.

KELLY: So is this...

JENKYNS: I completely disagree there. For 18 months now, Brexiteers have been meeting with the prime minister, meeting with the chief whip to put forward an alternative plan. Whatever ideas we've put forward over the last 18 months has fallen on deaf ears. So this is why, unfortunately, it's gotten to the stage as a party that our prime minister, our party leader, won't listen. So we need to have a leader in place who will respect that referendum result.

KELLY: But she is the leader you have. (Laughter) She's the leader of your party. And I guess I'm still trying to get my head around - so what happens if she doesn't get it through Parliament given that you're up against this March deadline and the past two-plus years, two and a half years have not produced a deal any better than the one that she's now put on the table?

JENKYNS: Several things can happen. But I do believe that a deal can be done last-minute. I mean, let's look at Greece. The negotiations with Greece and the EU went on for months and months, and it wasn't until the final weekend deadline that they came up with something. So that is how the EU works. This is...

KELLY: So you're prepared to take this up right up to that deadline at the end of March.

JENKYNS: Well, what I'm prepared to do is - I mean, I said back in July we need a new prime minister. We need a new party leader. And so I would like to have seen it in July. It hasn't happened.

KELLY: Do you think there's time to get a new prime minister, a new deal and get Europe on board before March 29?

JENKYNS: Yes, most definitely. Now, what happens in leadership elections within our party is in the last 18 months, that's now been centralized so that it'd be a lot quicker where that's concerned. And it could be done within three weeks.

KELLY: So as you look ahead with all of these deadlines and dates looming, how optimistic are you about the state of the U.K.?

JENKYNS: I mean, I do shudder to think of what it looks like from abroad, actually. You know, it looks like a government that's falling apart. It looks like we've got an opposition party, the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn was a joke. And so it's not in a good place at the moment, politics in Britain. And so I do think we need positive leadership. And, you know, we've got to have people who believe in our country, who sees the opportunities of Brexit and who will deliver, really.

KELLY: Andrea Jenkyns, Conservative member of Parliament - as you just heard, she's planning to vote no next month on Prime Minister Theresa May's draft Brexit deal. Andrea Jenkyns, thank you.

JENKYNS: Thank you very much. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.