David Davis is Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, and is the Conservative candidate for Haltemprice and Howden.
“At the start of this campaign, I knocked on the door of a house in Barrow and met two women, both lifelong Labour supporters who voted to remain.
They told me they were both planning to vote for Theresa May on June 8. Partly because they did not trust Jeremy Corbyn, but also because Britain had voted for Brexit, and they thought that Theresa May was the woman to deliver the best deal for them. It’s a conversation that has been repeated many times as I have campaigned across the country. In Coventry, in Bishop Auckland – even in the one-time constituency of Commissioner Mandelson, Hartlepool. Throughout this long, and sometimes difficult campaign, voters I have met have never lost sight of what this election has been about – who is the best person to get the job done.
Eleven days after the general election result is known, Brexit negotiations will begin. One of only two people will lead those negotiations – Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn. The Government received its instructions on June 23, 2016 – to take us out of the European Union. This is not an election to mandate if that happens, but how. We have always been clear this election has been about getting strongest possible mandate to carry out those instructions.
And we are ready for those talks. We have an explicit policy, detailed in more than 100 pages of two White Papers (see here and here), a six thousand word Lancaster House speech and the five pages of the Article 50 letter.
But while we have a clear and comprehensive plan, Labour seems to be without a single clue. Firstly there are those on the Labour frontbench, and within its coalition of minority parties prepared to prop up Corbyn in power, that still seem to be struggling to accept Brexit. It’s almost as if Brexit is something to be endured, not championed. It’s seen as a grudging obligation, not a historic opportunity.
So we’ve seen Labour swing between half a dozen policy positions on Brexit, only to finally settle on a pale imitation of ours. Take migration alone, we have had them saying we want to maintain free movement, do away with free movement and have immigration controls.
And Corbyn would tie Britain’s hands even before he pulled up a chair to the negotiating table. We are prepared to walk away if we don’t get the best deal for Britain – that stance only serves to increase the likelihood of achieving the best outcome. Corbyn would sign us up to any deal at any price. He seems to think he can get a good deal by simply asking nicely – hardly surprising from a leader whose manifesto is a Santa wish list funded by a magic money tree. People have seen incoherence, confusion, contradiction and hopeless naivete from Labour over the single most important issue of our age.
So we will seek a mandate today from the British public to deliver our clear plan for Brexit and a great future for Britain. We want to create a free trade agreement, a customs agreement that allows free and frictionless trade with the European Union. We want to maintain a deep and special relationship with Europe, but we want to be able to forge new trade partnerships across the world. The global market already provides almost 60 per cent of our trade, even without free trade agreements.
And Theresa May is the right woman to deliver for Britain because she believes in Britain and knows how much we have offer the world. We are a country with a rich cultural history, a legal system emulated across the globe and a democracy which is a model for many nations. More than 1.5 billion people speak English, it is the language of Shakespeare, of science, of law, medicine and engineering. It is also the language of world’s biggest borderless market – the internet. Everything depends on getting Brexit right. We can take back control of our borders, our money and our laws but only if we get the best deal.
We will make our streets safer from those who would seek to destroy our way of life. Two brutal terrorist attacks during the election expose a new kind of threat – a pitiless and crude onslaught that can strike anywhere. We must respond in new ways and we must respond together. A Conservative government will continue to give police and the security services the resources and powers they need to make our streets safer and defend our way of life. And we will continue to work with governments across the world to get the agreements we need to reduce the risks of extremism and radicalisation on-line.
We will build a Britain that is fairer and more prosperous than it is today – a country that makes the most of the talents in every part of the nation. And we will build a nation that delivers a better deal for working people – keeping the cost of living and taxes low, building more affordable homes and investing billions more in the NHS and our schools.
Britain stands at the threshold of new phase in our history as prepare to leave the European Union and chart a new course for ourselves in the world. Brexit is the defining issue of our age – the legacy we will leave for our children and our grandchildren.
We cannot afford to get it wrong. We cannot afford to leave our future in the hands of the hopeless Jeremy Corbyn. Theresa May is a woman of exceptional talent, experience, steel and determination. She is the right woman to go out to bat for Britain. She will deliver a strong deal for Britain and a bright future for everyone.