David Davis is MP for Haltemprice and Howden, and is a former Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union.
The Spice Girls had it right when they said: ‘stop right now thank you very much’.
Yes, last week was another frenzied one in British politics. The Prime Minister’s proposed agreement with the EU has gone down like a lead balloon. I’m afraid it is a failure of nerve by the establishment. Their antics have led to the resignation of two Brexit Secretaries – myself and now Dominic Raab.
MPs, Party members and the British public are rightly dismayed. The consequence is that now there is speculation about the leadership of the Conservative Party.
This is not the Brexit they voted for. This proposal would keep the UK permanently trapped in EU institutions and under EU domination. This is not taking back control of borders, laws and money, which 17.4 million people voted for. It breaks our commitment to leave the Customs Union in the 2017 Conservative Manifesto. This proposed deal will never get through the Commons.
It really is time to stop right now, and say thank you very much.
So that’s where we are. But this is a time for calm heads. The crucial point is there is still time to save Brexit, still time to take control and still time to offer the British people a brighter future. This is the moment of truth. We can reject the proposed agreement and move on. We still have time because the key date in the calendar is 21st January, 2019. Only then does the Government need to make a statement within five days on what the United Kingdom plans to do, according to the European Union (Withdrawal) Act of 2018.
So, we can use the time until then productively. We know from past experience that the EU always leaves agreement to the final moment possible at the eleventh hour. Everybody in the UK wants the hope of a better deal – and trust me, we can do this. I spent countless hours negotiating with EU counterparts, and I know the great prize of a Canada-style free trade agreement is still possible. Indeed, it is very much still on. Both Michel Barnier and Donald Tusk have confirmed this.
Justin Trudeau said of his country’s free trade deal that it has created “good, well-paying jobs”, putting “food on the table for families”, helping to “grow and strengthen our communities” and ensuring that each generation is “better off” and has a “higher standard of living, than the one that preceded it.”
The question is how do we get there? It does not have to be like this. What we need now is leadership and the courage and confidence to deliver for the UK. We can deliver an honest and clean Brexit, leaving all the possibilities such as global free trade deals open for bright future. If we need to leave with no deal and negotiate a free trade agreement during the transition period, so be it. Let’s be clear and honest and tell the EU that’s what we are prepared to do.
As we leave the EU, our geography remains fixed. We remain an island maritime nation, outward-facing and trading across the globe. British goods and services are recognised as the best in the world, and are sought after by global customers. This cannot and will not change.
We can go back to the EU and say, if necessary, we are prepared to leave on world trade terms without a deal, but we would rather agree a positive way forward for all sides. We only need to be ready to trade under World Trade Organisation rules: international laws that regulate the trading relationships of 164 member states and around 98 per cent of global trade.
It in all our interests – the UK’s, the EU member states’ and most importantly the British people’s – that we start again and sort this our properly. Let us become, once again, a self-governing, free-trading nation. This is the best approach to unite the Conservative Party and address the huge concerns of MPs, members and activists.
Then we can stop being ‘always on the run’, look beyond Brexit – and provide the ‘human touch’ by focussing on issues like housing, education, health and crime that matter so much in the lives of families up and down our country.