Daniel Dalton MEP: Brexit chaos? I blame the EU
"It's not looking great."
Daniel Dalton is not exactly brimming with confidence over his Conservative Party's hopes in tonight's European elections.
With the Tories down in fifth place in the polls and seemingly set for disaster, the West Midlands MEP has what he describes as a "realistic" view of a return to the office in Brussels that he had expected to vacate anyway up until a few weeks ago.
The 45-year-old father-of-two says he had planned "a bit of a break" to spend time with his family when he was thrust into election mode due to Brexit being delayed.
"I assumed I'd be doing something else by now, but the situation changed and suddenly I had to fight a campaign," he says.
Mr Dalton, a former first class cricketer who represented Warwickshire Cricket Board, assumed office in 2015 and backed Remain in the EU referendum.
He says his position "behind enemy lines" in Brussels has given him an alternative insight into the Brexit negotiations – and he is no doubt where to point the finger of blame.
"It's a privileged position in many ways because I get to see where the two sides are far apart and why we are stuck where we are," he said.
"I find it hard to understand why there has been such little criticism of the EU approach to the negotiations, particularly in Brussels.
"From the start their view was that the UK must be hurt by this. They did not negotiate as good actors."
Mr Dalton says the EU refused to allow the UK any "victories" on trade relations, which led to a "one-sided" deal – which he says has several flaws – that was almost impossible to sell in Britain.
"I don't think any Prime Minister could have come back with a different deal. It was the only what that the EU would allow, and the Government was forced to accept it to get the deal over the line by the deadline."
"They don't want the UK to leave," he adds. "And they have not reflected on the UK's decision to leave, although the impact will mean the EU will have less clout in the world having lost one of the major economies."
Mr Dalton also questions some of Theresa May's decisions, saying she "should have worked much harder" to try and forge a consensus with Tory MPs rather than entering talks with a Labour Party that has "no real interest" in delivering Brexit.
He believes the solution to Brexit is a deal where the UK leaves the single market and the customs union in a NAFTA-style relationship – the free trade agreement between Canada and the US and Mexico – which is designed around trading cars.
"I think we can use that as a template, where we are outside of the single market but have a very close free trade deal," he says. "That's the most sensible way we can get a trade deal that minimises the impact of Brexit to our economy.
"The economy is going to change when we leave the EU. In some areas it is going to hurt, in other areas it will benefit."
He describes leaving under WTO rules – the type of 'hard' Brexit pushed by Nigel Farage's Brexit Party and Tory Brexiteers – as "the worst possible approach", as it would lead to immediate and "significant" tariffs on UK exports.
"In the long term we would recover, but in the short term it would be a hammer blow to our economy," Mr Dalton said.
"I don't think it is what people voted for. However, I do understand why people think we should go for 'no deal' now, simply because if the deal does not pass the only options left are 'no deal' and not leaving.
"It is very easy for Nigel Farage to push it is a simple solution, but there's no easy solutions to anything when it comes to the EU."
He accused the Brexit Party of "tapping into a demand for simplicity", which he conceded had been spurred by the failure to get Brexit through Parliament.
"The message from voters is clear: they want Brexit delivered," he said.
"Our message is that we are the only party that can deliver Brexit. It's taking a bit longer than we wanted because we don't have a majority in Parliament.
"The reality is a vote for any party other than Conservative is making Brexit less likely. The opposition parties want to block it, and no matter how well the Brexit Party does it will still have no MPs next week.
"We are committed to delivering Brexit."
He said he had taken positives from the Conservatives performance on the economy and some decent against-the-odds showings across the region in the recent local elections.
"I am hopeful that the West Midlands can buck the trend nationally. I think Conservative MEPs have represented this area well over the years. The polls are not looking great, but let's see."
He is against a second referendum, which he says "would solve nothing" and allow divisions to fester. "The country has already made a decision three years ago and we have got to deliver on it. To not do so would be hugely damaging."
Reflecting on his time in Brussels, Mr Dalton said he is "proud" to have represented the West Midlands and helped shape legislation.
In 2015 he helped secure the future of Bridgnorth’s famous cliff railway by winning an exemption on parts and mechanisms.
He spearheaded new approval rules for cars in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal, and it's thanks to his work on television portability that people from the UK can now watch the likes of Netflix and Sky Sports on their portable devices when they go abroad.
Mr Dalton also played a major role in bringing in new laws to ban the block buying of tickets to sporting events.
As far as the future of the Conservative Party is concerned, he is cautiously optimistic that it can come through its current turmoil.
"The party united in the immediate aftermath of the referendum," he said. "The split we have at the moment is all about how we deliver Brexit. It is solvable, but we need to come to a consensus quickly.
"For us to unite and stop a Corbyn government we need to deliver Brexit."
And for that to happen, he says, the party's next leader must be a Brexiteer.
"They will need to connect – not just with the party, but outside the party. They will need the charisma to be able to deliver outside of the traditional Conservative vote."