Brexit in spotlight as UK parliament reopens
10 Oct 2018, 00:25 ( 4 Months ago)
Britain should hold its nerve as negotiations with Brussels on its departure from the European Union reach the final stretch, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab told the House of Commons which reopens Tuesday.
But former Brexit Secretary David Davis warned the ruling Conservative Party risked losing the next general election unless it ditched the so-called Chequers plan, the blueprint for a new trade deal favored by prime minister Theresa May.
Raab, updating MPs after they returned to Westminster following the party conference season, reiterated Britain's insistence that there will be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, one of the biggest hurdles still facing negotiators on both sides.
Also ruling out a second referendum, Raab said Britain's White Paper proposals, known as Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit blueprint, "are the best way of ensuring there is continued frictionless trade in goods after Britain leaves the EU". It also fulfills the commitment to avoid a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, he added.
"These negotiations were always bound to be tough in the final stretch. That is all the more reason why we should hold our nerve, stay resolute and focused, and I remain confident that we will reach a deal this autumn," said Raab, adding an agreement was in the best interests of both Britain and the other 27 EU member states.
Raab said the government is engaging with the EU on alternative proposals that preserve the integrity of the UK.
"They will be in line with the commitments we made back in December, including the commitment that no new regulatory barriers should be created between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK unless the Northern Ireland Executive and the Assembly agree," added the secretary.
"We continue to engage constructively with the EU, we continue to press our case," said Raab.
EU negotiators effectively want Northern Ireland to stay within their customs union and single market as a way or avoiding a hard border with the Irish Republic which will remain as an EU member Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary for the main opposition Labor Party said Raab's statement would have been much better coming from Prime Minister May.
Referring to a recent meeting of EU leaders where May's blueprint was rejected, Starmer added: "It should be up to Theresa May to let the House (of Commons) know what went wrong in the Salzburg negotiations.
That meeting in Austria prompted an angry response from May, saying EU leaders had shown Britain a lack of respect.
He warned that a vague deal would be like asking Britain to jump into the unknown, adding the Labor would not support that.
"No government has the right to plunge the country into chaos because of its own failing," said Starmer.
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) politician Nigel Dodds, said his party would not accept any deal that separates Northern Ireland from the rest of Britain. May's minority government relies on support from the 10 DUP MPs to give her a majority in the British parliament.
In another warning to May's government, the former Brexit Secretary David Davis warned her that the electoral consequences for the Conservative party could be dire if the final deal did not respect the decision to leave the EU.
In a letter to Conservative MPs, Davis said: "If we stay on our current trajectory, we will go into the next election with the government having delivered none of the benefits of Brexit, with the country having been reduced to a rule-taker from Brussels."
Advocating a so-called Canada-style trade deal between Britain and the EU, Davis said: "No 10's stated position that there is only a binary choice between her Chequers plan and no deal is not correct. A third way does exist."
Davis quit his top ministerial job in July saying he could not support May's Brexit blueprint, agreed at a behind-closed-doors meetings at Chequers, the prime minister's country retreat.
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who quit alongside Davis over May's Brexit blueprint, has already issued a "chuck Chequers" plea to the government, claiming it would mean Britain remaining as a vassal state of the EU.