BrexitCentral: The Government should stick to its red lines and be willing to walk away if the EU doesn’t like them

This Friday’s Chequers Cabinet meeting should define a further, crucial stage of exiting the EU. The UK Government should confirm to the electorate that it will deliver what they voted for in the referendum – to be free to make our own laws; free to conclude our own trade agreements and free to take back control of immigration policy. The question is whether this can be agreed with the EU, or will require us to walk out and rely on the WTO.

I have taken comfort from the key speeches made by the Prime Minister on our withdrawal from the EU and, in particular, her Mansion House speech. This set out very clearly what deal we want with the EU and included the all-important statement that no deal is to be preferred to a bad deal.

It is, therefore, disingenuous for Monsieur Barnier and the EU to say that they are still awaiting the Prime Minister’s statement of the deal she is seeking. She has already set this out three times where, moreover, the deal she seeks for Britain is essentially reasonable.

I regard the attempts by the UK Remainers to frustrate Brexit as constitutionally improper. They cannot ignore that citizens have voted convincingly, by a clear margin, to leave the EU. Moreover, their continuing “fear campaign” has served to dent confidence for the future. It was courteous and helpful of the US Ambassador to speak out with optimism for the future, particularly for increased UK/US trade.

So, what should the Cabinet be agreeing upon at the Chequers meeting this Friday?

The first fundamental point on which to be firm is that “no deal is better than a bad deal”. Clearly the EU tactic is to try to frighten the UK from walking out, so as to be able to impose a bad deal. As regards the implementation of WTO requirements, David Davis and his team have seen to it that there have been adequate preparations for a no-deal scenario.

This both kills the argument that we would have to accept a bad deal because a no deal has not been prepared for; and provides the potential strengthening of our negotiating position, as clearly the EU would not want a no deal outcome and is likely to offer improved terms if we walked out.

We need to call the EU/Irish bluff. There is no impossible border issue and any solution which would divide the UK is clearly not on. The Dublin position exploited by the EU is to put pressure on the UK, is largely about domestic Irish politics.

Any EU deal we might accept must be agreed in detail prior to our departure. There is no legal obligation to hand over £39billion on our departure and if there is then no guarantee of a trade agreement, we should hold back payment.

The Prime Minister has had a tough time getting the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 through Parliament, dealing with a wantonly unfriendly and unhelpful EU and a divided Conservative Party.

Now is the time to take the lead; to reaffirm what deal is acceptable to us, and if refused, to exit negotiating and rely on the WTO. The reality is that our position is stronger than that of the EU.

To read Lord Flight’s piece for BrexitCentral in full, click here.

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