David Davis MP writes for The Telegraph on how the Government must now hold its nerve in the Brexit talks
As published in The Telegraph:
For some time, EU negotiators have demanded to know what the UK wants. An EU Commission spokesman even quoted the Spice Girls, saying: “We expect the United Kingdom to tell us what they want, what they really, really want.”
Well, last week Parliament sent a very clear message: by passing the Brady amendment, it showed there is a majority for a deal which removes the Northern Ireland backstop.
A working party of MPs is now looking into how the supposed border conundrum can be solved. There are many concrete proposals to consider.
Lars Karlsson, author of a report for the European Parliament, for example, proposed a technical solution for the Northern Ireland land border as far back as March 2018. He said that the elements of a “smart border” would make it possible to have no new physical infrastructure at the frontier.
The EU disregarded this report because it did not suit their interests. They knew that the backstop would effectively keep Northern Ireland prisoner as an economic colony of the EU.
It would also keep the UK in the customs union indefinitely. And because the EU would control the timing of our exit, this would give them formidable negotiating leverage.
But I am confident that a deal can be done. The EU has a history of making deals at the eleventh hour. They will always let negotiations go to the wire.
In 2010, it was received wisdom that there would be no Greek bail-out. Yet since 2010 Greece has had three bail‑outs and it now owes the EU and IMF roughly €290 billion.
The EU’s confrontational approach is clearly not working, either. Back in September 2017, Michel Barnier said it was his job to “educate” the UK about the price of leaving the EU “club” and that Brexit would be “an educational process” for the UK.
Now, our Parliament has expressed its disdain for the EU’s high-handed proposals. The canard that “the UK doesn’t know what it wants” is simply untrue. But we also need to be crystal clear about what we want from the future relationship.
That is why, alongside trade experts including Shanker Singham, on Wednesday I am publishing the draft text for a full free-trade agreement (FTA) between the UK and EU. It does a number of important things. First, it shows the public what a comprehensive, advanced FTA would look like.
We have lived with the customs union and the single market for so long, but an FTA would be very different.
Although the single market was originally built on mutual recognition, it is now based on identical regulations if you are inside the bloc, and access to the bloc is much more difficult from outside.
Our proposed FTA would lower barriers to trade and, through mutual recognition, would improve domestic regulation on both sides.
Secondly, since the draft text is based on commitments that the EU has already made in different settings – including its agreement with Canada, its recent accord with Japan, and other sectoral agreements such as the EU-New Zealand Veterinary Agreement – it cannot be said to undermine the single market or any other part of the EU project.
It should all be easily comprehensible and acceptable.
As a result, the negotiation should be faster and more predictable than it has been during the past two years, when No 10 has refused to lay out the details of our position. Tactically and strategically, a legal text is the better approach. And, of course, our draft FTA will enable the UK to seize the Brexit prize of our own independent trade and regulatory policy.
This is the time for Government and Parliament to hold their nerve. There is no case whatsoever for an Article 50 extension. We need to insist on a deal that is mutually beneficial – not punitive – and that can be shown to work for everyone.
Our proposal for a free-trade agreement is not only what the British people voted for in the referendum but what they expect to be delivered. That is why they have not wavered in their support for Brexit. It’s time to focus on the positive, ambitious and valuable trading opportunities available to the UK in the future.