Sir David Davis writes for The Telegraph on why the Government’s Brexit plan fails to deliver on the referendum result


As published on The Telegraph:

In a cunning plan of Blackadder proportions, the Government aims to offer Parliament a binary choice – accept a Chequers-based deal or exit without a deal. This is wholly disingenuous. Even Baldrick would have blushed at this false dichotomy.

Let’s look at the facts. Chequers is an unsustainable zombie plan. The British people voted to take back control of money, borders and laws.

Chequers fails to deliver on this and therefore fails to deliver the Brexit that 17.4 million voted for.

A common rule book overseen by the European Court of Justice; a facilitated customs arrangement that breaks the Tory 2017 manifesto pledge; and a backstop that threatens the UK’s constitutional integrity. These concessions go far beyond the pale.

Ministers know this, Conservative MPs know this, and the British people know this. In any event, such a deal would not get through the Commons.

Worse still, the Government seems to be on the verge of committing the UK to a permanent customs union. The backstop would lock us into a relationship with the EU from which we could not escape without permission. This is unacceptable.

“When in a hole, stop digging,” comes to mind.

Earlier this month I called for the Attorney General’s advice on the backstop to be published. Cabinet ministers and MPs must be able to make an informed judgment. If publication is resisted then ultimately the truth will out.

The UK has not yet signed a binding treaty. As Martin Howe QC advised, we still have “a brief, golden opportunity to walk away from this mess”.

We can solve the Irish border issue with political goodwill and technical solutions. By rejecting the backstop purgatory, we can free the UK to make trade deals with the rest of the world. Leaders of major economies like the US, Australia, Singapore, India and New Zealand have committed to trade talks with the UK.

Crucially, a Canada-style deal remains on the table. There is still enough time. Both Michel Barnier and Donald Tusk have confirmed that the EU wants to agree an unprecedented free trade arrangement with the UK. The EU understands trade deals and will be willing to use the “best in class” aspects of previous deals.

I am convinced a Canada+++ deal can be negotiated if the Government rethinks and resets. We know from experience that the EU always agrees a deal at the last possible moment. But if they won’t, we should be prepared to exit without a deal. Such an exit is feasible and over half the UK’s global trade is already conducted on world trade terms. It would not be the optimal result. But preparing for such an eventuality strengthens our hand.

The Government’s present stance is defeatist. It betrays weakness and throws away all our strong negotiating advantages such as the EU’s trade surplus, our budgetary contributions, our defence and security expertise and our fishing waters.

Neither is a second referendum the answer. It is too late for any result to take effect before we leave on March 29 2019 and would be toxic, divisive and a failure of nerve on an epic scale.

For too long the Prime Minister has failed to pay enough attention to the opposition to Chequers. Voters want the Government to get on with the job. It is not enough to complain that the EU is not acting in good faith.

Every Cabinet member should look to their own conscience. If they do not believe that this is the best deal for the UK then they should say so.

Now is the time to face up to reality and start afresh in negotiations.

The Government must rise to the challenge and deliver a Brexit that the British people want. It is time to talk up the opportunities Brexit presents and to be positive about the bright future that exists outside the EU.