|James Gray is the (Conservative) MP for North Wiltshire. He was a Whip, Shadow Defence Minister, Shadow Minister for Rural Affairs, and Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland as well as a Chairman of the Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions for some years. A member of Mr Speaker’s Panel of Chairmen, James has a deep interest in Parliament and the Constitution. He was educated in Glasgow (High School and University) and Christ Church, Oxford. James is a graduate of the Royal College of Defence Studies, a Visiting Fellow of St Antony’s College, Oxford and has also published several books: three on shipping and the futures markets (one of which won a Lloyds of London Book Prize); Crown vs Parliament: Who Takes Britain to War? (which won an RCDS prize); and more recently Poles Apart (2014) and Who Takes Britain to War? (2015).
James Rogers is Director of the ‘Global Britain’ Programme at the Henry Jackson Society, of which he is a founding member. Formerly, he held a number of positions at the Baltic Defence College in Estonia and has worked at the European Union Institute for Security Studies in Paris.
On 14 January 2019, the Henry Jackson Society were privileged to host Mr James Gray MP for North Wiltshire. In light of the meaningful vote on Britain’s exit from the European Union on 15 January, Mr Gray offered his thoughts on the Brexit process and what may come next.
Mr Gray started off by praising the timing of the event and offered some thoughts on where we stand as of now. He believes that MPs have broken up into around 20 different grouping that were not necessarily drawn down party political lines. As a hard Brexiteer, he explained how he cannot vote for a deal that he does not believe delivers on Brexit and expressed his belief that the Prime Minister’s deal will be voted down. On the Irish backstop, Mr Gray stated that it was unacceptable that the UK could theoretically stay in the custom’s union indefinitely, and asserted that even if the deal was voted through on Tuesday evening, a vote of no confidence would be instigated by the DUP. He went on to say that a loss of a 100-150 votes would be a serious problem for the Prime Minister, and whilst he doesn’t believe she will resign, he wonders if her tenacity has entered the realm of stubbornness. Despite this he said it seems likely that the Prime Minister will head back to Brussels, and a near certainty that the EU will take negotiations down to the wire. He softened fears that Brexit could be cancelled by intimating that European Research Group lawyers have advised that Brexit cannot be cancelled by a mere series of amendments. If it comes to it, Mr Gray stated that it was in his view that a ‘no deal’ Brexit would not be all that catastrophic, although there would be some discomfort. He said that although the UK must ‘pay its dues’ the figure of £39 billion is mostly based on good will.
In justifying his position, Mr Gray said it was his belief that all great empires eventually fall, but that it is vital that the nation is kept in one body. He mentioned that Britain after Brexit would have better defence capabilities, and cited the recently published Henry Jackson Society report: ‘The Audit of Geopolitical Capability 2019’ in his answer. He said that he believes that our greatness comes out of our trading capacity, which is hindered by the European Union. He reminded us that we should be pleased and proud of country, and said that he felt strongly that we as a nation can offer a lot more to the world. With that, he said it is essential to think about what it is that makes Britain ‘great’ which is in part what he tries to study in his new book ‘The Full English Breakfast’.
Mr Gray ended by saying that in a post-Brexit world the UK can pay far more attention to the Commonwealth, and in turn, believes that now is the ideal time to be leaving the European Union, which he believes we are leaving at ‘just the right moment’.