Sir David Davis writes for The Telegraph on how attempts to block no deal weaken the UK’s negotiation position


As published in The Telegraph:

Put aside the hyperbole and exaggeration about “the death of democracy” and “constitutional outrage” that have accompanied the Prime Minister’s plans to prorogue Parliament. It is actually a sensible strategy that can potentially reset the tortured Brexit negotiations.

In politics, momentum is key but it’s also crucial to have a sense of purpose. Had the Government pursued such a strategy from June 2017, who knows what position we would be in now? It’s absolutely right that Boris Johnson’s administration begins the detailed forensic work needed to develop an attractive policy portfolio on important domestic issues like schools funding, the NHS, policing and infrastructure investment. All of which need to be previewed in a Queen’s Speech. Similarly, after three years of frustrating impasse, a strong and radical Budget will be imperative to reassure voters and businesses that whatever the outcome of Brexit, the Government has a grip and is competent and clear-sighted.

By reducing the options of unreconciled Remainer MPs, and making it abundantly clear that no deal is much more likely and that Parliament cannot block it, Boris Johnson has signalled to the EU that they need to focus on what a new Withdrawal Agreement would look like. At the very minimum it needs to be shorn of the backstop.

I have consistently stated for the last three years that any deal will not be sealed until the few weeks prior to the UK’s departure. It is noticeable that the Dutch and French have softened their aggressive rhetoric, and now there is even the suggestion that the EU will want to extend the Oct 31 deadline. They are engaging because they see the UK getting serious.

This is why the futile parliamentary games in the Commons next week are so damaging to our negotiating hand. Those MPs who shout loudly that they are doing this “for the national interest” should consider how that is served by giving succour to our EU interlocutors. These MPs will seek to block Brexit in defiance of the expressed national wish.

The Cabinet is at last united on prorogation and the new robust negotiating stance. The current strategy envisages a deal involving the Withdrawal Agreement minus the backstop. This would be far from a panacea, and we should remember that it would be only the start of a negotiating process leading to a free trade deal. We would still hand over £39 billion, which under the current document carries no guarantee of a long-term agreement in return, so we need to look at conditionality. This means only completing UK contributions when progress is made.

So there is much more to do. To quote Churchill: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” It is time for action as well as words. A strong and united Cabinet and Government and a confident Prime Minister is the best vehicle to secure the elusive deal. It is within our grasp if we trust our own judgment and keep our nerve.