David Davis: May’s EU deal ‘a statement of intent’
The Brexit Secretary David Davis joined Andrew Marr this morning to discuss Theresa May’s recent round of negotiations in Brussels, where the European Union finally agreed to progress to the second phase. Friday’s breakthrough included an agreement that there would be ‘no hard border’ between the UK and Ireland, and that the UK would maintain ‘full alignment’ with the EU’s single market and customs union. Marr asked Davis about how the Prime Minister’s deal would affect the negotiations going forward:
DD: This [deal] was a statement of intent more than anything else. It was much more a statement of intent that it was a legally enforceable thing.
AM: Here’s the crucial question – that promise on full alignment that we have made not just to the EU but also to the Irish government – if we don’t get a deal, does that promise get torn up?
DD: I think if we don’t get a deal we’re going to have to find a way of making sure we keep the open frictionless border – as it were, an invisible border – in Northern Ireland. We do it at the moment. Understand something – at the moment there are different tax and levy regimes and excise regimes north and south of the border. We manage that without having border posts allotted along the 300 roads there and we will find a way of doing that.
AM: The Taoiseach thinks that he has got that full alignment in his back pocket. That is an absolutely firm promise from Theresa May and yourself and the British government. Can you say that we absolutely commit ourselves to that?
DD: What we say is we commit ourselves to maintaining a frictionless invisible border…
AM: Even with no deal?
DD: Even with no deal, even with a WTO deal, we’ll find a way.
He continued: ‘There will be technical solutions… there are a whole series of possibilities that we can do that nobody’s engaged on yet. We need to engage [in] the next stage to get that right.’
David Davis: We want a ‘Canada plus plus plus deal’
Davis went on to outline the deal that he wanted to see the UK achieve over the following 12 months.
AM: We have about 8 months to do an incredibly complicated trade deal that took Canada 7 years. Are you really convinced it can all be done within 8 months?
DD: It’s not that complicated… First thing is, we want an over-arching free trade deal which has no tariffs, so you don’t have to negotiate every tariff line. Secondly, we start in full alignment, we start with complete convergence and so we then work it out from there.
AM: This comes to the kind of arrangement we want to have once we have finally left the EU which the Cabinet is finally doing to discuss before Christmas. Can I ask you what your vision of that is?
DD: It’s what has been discussed in Cabinet already before the Lancaster House speech, before the Florence speech, before the white paper was published, which is an over-arching free trade deal, but including services – which Canada doesn’t – with individual specific arrangements for aviation, nuclear and for data…
AM: If the basic deal is Canada plus the City or something like that..?
DD: Canada plus plus plus would be one way of putting it… What we want is a bespoke outcome. We’ll probably start with the best of Canada, and the best of Japan and the best of South Korea and then add to that the bit that’s missing, which is the services.
Elsewhere, when commenting on the so-called ‘divorce bill’, Davis clarified ‘No deal means that we won’t be paying the money’. However, he also declared that: ‘The odds of a WTO or no-deal scenario have dropped dramatically’ as a result of Friday’s agreement.
Keir Starmer: Labour would accept ‘easy movement’ of workers
The Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer also joined Marr to discuss Labour’s position on Theresa May’s deal and the party’s overall Brexit strategy. In particular, Marr was keen to talk about freedom of movement, an issue where Labour has had difficulty in adopting a consistent approach since the referendum in 2016. Sir Keir attempted to clear up the confusion:
AM: You really think that the agreement that Theresa May struck this week means that Britain will in perpetuity stay very close to the single market and the customs union?
KS: Yes, and think that that’s the right thing and I think we should hold her to that because that goes to the heart of the question ‘What sort of Britain do we want to be?’ Do we see Europe as our major trading partner in the future or do we want to rip ourselves apart from that?
AM: …So you want a new treaty giving us full access and benefits of the single market and the customs union?
KS: It will have to be a new treaty…
AM: …Would Labour, in that treaty, negotiate a system whereby people living in the EU could come and work here freely and vice versa?
KS: … The end of free movement doesn’t mean no movement. Of course we would want people to come from the EU to work here. We’d want people who are here to go and work in the EU. The basis of that would have to be negotiated.
AM: Easy movement if not free?
KS: Yes, of course
When Marr asked about retaining EU regulations to ensure compatibility with the single market, Starmer replied: ‘What underpins access is a level playing field… We are very comfortable staying on a level playing field.’
Emily Thornberry: We have to leave the EU, but we don’t need to move a long way
Later on the Sunday Politics, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry was asked by Sarah Smith to further explain Keir Starmer’s earlier comments:
SS: Keir Starmer this morning [effectively said] that we are not staying in the single market… but we want to maintain a lot of the arrangements that we have with the single market. So in order to achieve that, what Keir Starmer seemed to be saying was that we would stay closely aligned to the EU, possibly even paying for access… and he said there should be ‘easy movement’ of people… Is that really respecting the result of the referendum?
ET: We have to leave the European Union but we don’t need to go a long way. It would not be respecting the referendum the sentiment that was expressed during the referendum if we didn’t move to a system where we had fair rules and managed migration…
SS: If we’re staying very closely aligned [to the EU] whilst we have no say in the formulation of those rules, how is that taking back control?
ET: We’re going to leave… and people wanted to have some form of control over migration, and fair rules and managed migration is where we want to get to, but they didn’t vote to lose their jobs… and people should be in no doubt our biggest trading partner is the European Union.
Peter Bone: ‘There isn’t going to be a deal’
And finally, prominent Tory backbencher Peter Bone, who offered to accompany Theresa May to Brussels in order to help her with the Brexit negotiations, has given his opinion to Niall Paterson about what is waiting down the line for the UK:
Tory Brexiteer Peter Bone says he expects there will be no proper trade deal and the UK should be ready to say "we're going to come out… we're not going to give you that £39bn and we're going to spend it on the NHS and social care" #Brexit #Paterson pic.twitter.com/NLFTPsdm9Q
— Sunday with Paterson (@RidgeOnSunday) December 10, 2017
PB: The real issue is when we get to the spring of next year, if there is no proper trade deal done, if it’s clear that there’s not going to be a deal, which is actually what I think will happen, at that stage we have to say ‘We’re going to come out, there isn’t going to be a deal. By the way, we’re not going to give you that £39 billion and we’re going to spend it on the health service and social care’.
When queried by Paterson about May’s deal and the issue of ‘full alignment’ with the EU, Bone replied: ‘If that was actually true, I’d be worried.’