Britain open to ‘alternative ways’ of delivering Brexit, says Raab

Brexit secretary reiterates point that UK will listen to new ideas - but is willing to crash out

Britain is willing to listen to "alternative ways" of delivering Brexit as negotiations with the European Union move into their final phase, Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has told the Conservative Party conference.

But he warned that the UK would leave with no deal rather than accept an arrangement that compromised the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom or tried to keep the UK inside the EU by the back door.

“As in any negotiation, we will listen to alternative ways of delivering on the strategic criteria we have set out, because a good deal would be the best outcome for everyone.

“But our willingness to compromise is not without limits. We are leaving the European Union in fact, not just in name,” he said.



Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond told a fringe meeting at the conference last night that if Britain left the EU without a deal, it could be obliged to impose checks on the Border.

“The challenges around the Irish Border are around the legal requirements we will have if we are not in a trade bloc within the European Union to operate the WTO-compliant border, which does require checks at the Border,” he said.

“That’s what the WTO rules require. We are depending on the WTO to regulate our relations with the rest of the world, we will have to comply with the rest of WTO regulations or we will find we can’t enforce our WTO rights against others,” he said.

Earlier, Mr Hammond told delegates in Birmingham that, regardless of their views on Brexit, some geographical and economic facts were unavoidable.

"Europe remains, by far, our biggest market. And after 45 years of membership, Britain's economy has shaped itself around that fact.

"Complex supply chains cross and re-cross our borders. More than 11,000 trucks pass each day through the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel alone, carrying tens of thousands of tons of food, components and finished products in both directions with no more delay or bureaucracy than they would crossing the border from England into Wales, " the chancellor said.

“And our businesses, and the workers whose jobs depend on them, need that friction-free access to continue,” he said.

Mr Hammond predicted that, if the prime minister returned from Brussels with a Brexit deal, the British economy would receive a boost he described as a "deal dividend".

Britain is expected to present its proposal for the Border backstop next week but EU negotiators are pessimistic about its capacity to break the deadlock.

The proposal is expected to accept the need for Northern Ireland to remain aligned with the EU for the regulation of goods but would offer the Stormont Assembly, which is currently suspended, a role in authorising such alignment.

Crucially, it is expected to maintain Britain’s opposition to any customs arrangement for Northern Ireland that is distinct from the rest of the UK.

Labour's shadow Brexit minister, Jenny Chapman, said the prime minister had no credible plan for addressing the issue of the backstop. "Labour has long argued that a customs union, with a strong single market relationship, is essential to avoid the return of a hard Border in Northern Ireland.

“That is why it is disappointing the Tories have repeatedly blocked a customs union.” she said.

"If Theresa May is to have any chance of getting a Brexit deal through parliament, she needs to accept the need for a customs union after Brexit – and fast," Ms Chapman added.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times