Suggesting the deal should be altered, the Tory backbencher claimed: “The Brexit deal was signed at a time when government was weak and gripped by a political and constitutional crisis, the EU took advantage.”
The deal, signed in December 2020, came just a year after prime minister Boris Johnson had secured a huge landmark majority of 80 seats in the Commons.
While there was some tension within the Tory party over how closely aligned post-Brexit Britain should be to the EU, the Conservatives all won on a manifesto to “get Brexit done”.
BBC Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis probed: “So you think it’s a terrible deal?”
Jenkin replied: “I personally would have been happy to vote against it. The only reason I voted for it is because there didn’t seem to be an alternative.”
He then cut Maitlis off and said: “We can go on talking about the past, but the point is about the future. Is this agreement working?
“I think even now the EU agrees that there are aspects of this deal which are not working.
“That’s a big shift. That’s a big change.”
The BBC presenter interjected: “So when the prime minister came back and he hailed it as a great deal, a breakthrough, and it was all signed by Christmas, were you sitting there and thinking, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, this is a terrible deal’?
“Were you thinking that all along?”
He replied: “I thought I suppose he’s got to sell the deal, but it’s not a great deal, but you know, we could live with it.”
He added that the Tories have tried to make it “work”.
Irish senator Lisa Chambers then criticised Jenkin on Newsnight and said the EU did not take advantage of the UK during the negotiations.
She continued: “It’s not unreasonable to suggest that we would expect that deal to be honoured – to the letter.
“It was signed eyes wide open, everyone knew what they were signing. I don’t think anyone could suggest we didn’t talk about it enough or that we didn’t understand all elements of it.”