Former Brexit Secretary David Davis has unleashed another salvo at the PM’s compromise blueprint for future trade
David Davis waded back into the Brexit row today by urging Theresa May to tear up her Brexit plan and demand a looser relationship with the EU.
The former Brexit Secretary unleashed another salvo at the PM’s compromise blueprint, saying she should instead propose a ‘Canada plus plus plus’ deal.
Mr Davis also insisted she must step up preparations for ‘no deal’ with the EU and be ready to walk away if the bloc does not see sense.
The intervention came as Mr Davis’ successor, Dominic Raab, admitted he is still trying to win over some doubtful Cabinet ministers to the PM’s plan – which would see the UK obey a ‘common rule book’ with Brussels and collect some taxes on behalf of the bloc.
Meanwhile, a poll has found just 12 per cent of the public think the Chequers model would be good for Britain.
In an interview with the Sunday Express, Mr Davis – who quit a fortnight ago in protest at Mrs May’s approach – predicted negotiations with the EU would remain deadlocked.
‘We’re going to have to do a reset and come back and look at it all again,’ he said.
‘I think when we get to the autumn, if we are in the situation where we don’t have any degree of agreement, we’re going to have to start again.’
Mr Davis urged ministers to draw up fresh proposals based on an amalgamation of the ‘best bits’ of deals the EU has already struck with other countries, such as Canada, South Korea, Switzerland and New Zealand.
That would probably mean a loose free trade agreement, with add-ons to reduce friction for areas of the economy like financial services.
There would be more scope for the UK to strike trade deals elsewhere, and Britain would set its own regulations – although the EU and critics claim such a relationship would require a hard Irish border.
Mr Davis suggested alongside putting forward the ‘Canada plus’ ties, preparations for no deal must accelerate from the current position of ‘consult and cajole’ to ‘command and control’.
‘By the end of the summer it should be plain we are making proper preparations for this,’ he said.
Mr Raab said the UK could refuse to pay its £39billion divorce bill to Brussels if it does not get a trade deal.
He warned there would be ‘conditionality’ under the Article 50 withdrawal mechanism between settling Britain’s exit payment and creating a new relationship with the EU.
But he indicated he was still trying to persuade all members of the Cabinet that Theresa May’s Chequers agreement was ‘the best plan to get the best deal’.
He said: ‘Article 50 requires, as we negotiate the withdrawal agreement, that there’s a future framework for our new relationship going forward, so the two are linked.
Theresa May, pictured at church in her Maidenhead constituency today with husband Philip, is battling to hold the Tories together as she desperately scrambles to put together a deal with the EU
Dominic Raab, pictured left with Michel Barnier in Brussels last week, admitted he is still trying to win over some doubtful Cabinet ministers to the PM’s proposals
‘You can’t have one side fulfilling its side of the bargain and the other side not, or going slow, or failing to commit on its side.
‘So, I think we do need to make sure that there’s some conditionality between the two.’
What is in Theresa May’s Brexit blueprint?
These are some of the key features of the Chequers plan being pushed by the UK government:
- A new free trade area in goods, based on a ‘common rulebook’ of EU regulations necessary. This will require the UK to commit by treaty to match EU rules
- ‘Mobility’ rules which will end automatic freedom of movement, but still allow UK and EU citizens to travel without visas for tourism and temporary work. It will also enable businesses to move staff between countries.
- Continued UK participation in and funding of European agencies covering areas like chemicals, aviation safety and medicines
- A ‘facilitated customs arrangement’, removing the need for customs checks at UK-EU ports. It would allow differing UK and EU tariffs on goods from elsewhere in the world to be paid at the border, removing the need for rebates in the vast majority of cases. In theory this allows Britain to sign trade deals.
- Keeping services – such as banking or legal support – outside of the common rule book, meaning the UK is completely free to set its own regulations. It accepts it will mean less trade in services between the UK and EU.
- Continued co-operation on energy and transport, a ‘common rulebook’ on state aid and commitments to maintain high standards of environmental and workplace protections.
- A security deal allowing continued UK participation in Europol and Eurojust, ‘co-ordination’ of UK and EU policies on foreign affairs, defence and development.
- Continued use of the EHIC health insurance card.
Pressed on whether he would put such a provision into legislation, Mr Raab said: ‘Certainly it needs to go into the arrangements we have at international level with our EU partners. We need to make it clear that the two are linked.’
The comments appeared at odds with the views of Chancellor Philip Hammond, who said of the divorce payment last December: ‘I find it inconceivable that we as a nation would be walking away from an obligation that we recognised as an obligation.
‘That is not a credible scenario. That is not the kind of country we are. Frankly, it would not make us a credible partner for future international agreements.’
Mr Raab also defended the controversial Chequers Cabinet compromise on withdrawal aims, insisting he wanted to persuade voters and Cabinet colleagues that it is the way forward.
The Brexit Secretary said: ‘I want to make sure we can persuade everyone – grassroots, voters, parliamentary party and ministers, including in the Cabinet – that we’ve got the best deal and the best plan to get the best deal.’
The Brexit Secretary said critics were mistaken to think Mrs May would not walk away without a deal if she had to.
‘They’re wrong. No bluffing.
‘The ball is now in the EU’s court, and don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty more negotiations, I’ve made that clear, but if they show us the same level of ambition, energy, pragmatism, this deal gets done in 12 weeks.’
A You Gov survey for The Sunday Times suggested only 16 per cent of voters think Mrs May is handling negotiations well, while 34 per cent believe former foreign secretary Boris Johnson would do a better job.
Just 11 per cent thought Mrs May’s plans would be good for Britain, according to the research.
Some 38 per cent of people would vote for a new party on the right that was committed to Brexit, while 24 per cent are ready to support an explicitly far right anti-immigrant, anti-Islam party.
The poll found that one in three voters are prepared to back a new anti-Brexit centrist party.
So what would happen if we just walked away?
Leaving without a deal would mean an immediate Brexit on March 29 after tearing up a 21-month transition agreement. This included giving £39billion to the EU, which ministers would no longer have to pay, a House of Lords report claims.
The Chequers agreement effectively proposed keeping Britain in the single market for goods and agriculture to preserve ‘frictionless’ trade and protect the economy.
Customs checks on cross-Channel freight would cause havoc at ports, hitting food supplies and other goods.
Even Brexiteers admit to a big economic impact in the short term. Britain could waive customs checks on EU produce to free up backlogs, but would Brussels do the same?
All EU-UK trade in goods is free of tariffs in the single market.
Trade would revert to World Trade Organisation rules. The EU would charge import tariffs averaging 2-3 per cent on goods, but up to 60 per cent for some agricultural produce, damaging UK exporters.
We have a trade deficit with the EU of £71billion – they sell us more than we sell them – so the EU overall would lose out.
German cars and French agriculture would be worst hit, as would UK regions with large export industries. Tariffs could also mean price inflation. But UK trade with the EU is 13 per cent of GDP and falling compared to non-EU trade, which generates a surplus and is likely to grow. The outlook would be boosted by Britain’s ability to strike trade deals.
The UK would immediately have control over its borders and freedom to set migration policy on all EU migrants.
UK nationals would likely lose their right to live and work in the EU. There would be legal uncertainty for the 1.3million Britons living in the EU and the 3.7million EU nationals here.
CITY OF LONDON
Many firms have already made contingency plans for no deal, but there would probably be a significant degree of disruption and an economic hit.
Ministers would be likely to take an axe to tax and regulations to preserve the UK’s economic advantage.
Fears of planes not being able to fly appear far-fetched – unless the EU is determined to destroy both business and tourism. Rules to keep planes in the air are likely to be agreed. The EU has many deals with non-EU countries as part of its Open Skies regime.
Britain would be free from the edicts of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg and all EU laws. Parliament would be sovereign.
FARMING & FISHING
THE UK would quit the Common Agricultural Policy, which gives farmers and landowners £3billion in subsidies. Ministers would come under pressure to continue a form of subsidy.
Northern Ireland would be outside the EU, with no arrangements on how to manage 300 crossing points on the 310-mile border.
The EU would want Ireland to impose customs and other checks to protect the bloc’s border – something it has said it will not do. No deal could blow a hole in the Good Friday Agreement, with pressure on all sides to find a compromise.