Britain’s Brexit chief ‘confident that deal is within our grasp’

Dominic Raab tells MPs that if ‘pragmatism’ matched by EU then UK will be ready for exit

British Brexit secretary Dominic Raab: Told MPs that a no-deal Brexit “could bring some opportunities”. Photograph: EPA

British Brexit secretary Dominic Raab: Told MPs that a no-deal Brexit “could bring some opportunities”. Photograph: EPA

 

Britain’s Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has told MPs that Theresa May’s Chequers proposal has received a positive response from European leaders, even if it was “challenging” for some in Brussels.

Mr Raab was speaking days after EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier said the Chequers plan for customs was unworkable. And its proposal to give Britain single market access for goods but not services could destroy the European project.

“I will continue to meet regularly with Michel Barnier, confident that a deal is within our grasp. And if the ambition and pragmatism that we have shown is matched by our EU friends, this House and the British people can rest assured that the UK will be ready for Brexit, deal or no deal,” he said.

A number of Conservative Brexiteers on the Commons EU scrutiny committee who met Mr Barnier this week were encouraged by his suggestion that Britain’s negotiating red lines made a Canada-style free trade agreement the best available option after Brexit. Some pro-European Conservatives have also called on the prime minister to abandon her Chequers proposal because it has no chance of being accepted either by the EU or by parliament.

Ms May will make a statement on Brexit at a meeting of EU leaders in Salzburg on September 20th, after which the other 27 leaders will discuss the issue among themselves. Downing Street hopes that, by making the case for Chequers directly to the other leaders, the prime minister will persuade them to soften Mr Barnier’s negotiating mandate.

“The negotiations are taking place with the [EU] commission, we have always respected that fact,” said the prime minister’s spokesman on Tuesday.

“But equally this is a decision which at the end of the process will be taken at a political level by the European Council. So you can obviously expect a continued and strong engagement with fellow European countries.”

Steady hand

Bank of England governor Mark Carney confirmed to a Commons committee on Tuesday that he is discussing with the government a possible postponement of his departure from office next summer to offer continuity in the months after Brexit. Mr Carney warned that a no-deal could mean years of hardship for British households.

“There is going to be a period of adjustment if we’re moving quickly to a WTO relationship and it is likely, given the pace of wage growth at present and the inflation effects, that the real income squeeze will return for households across the country for a few years,” he said.

Mr Raab told MPs, however, that although the government was not seeking a no-deal Brexit and did not expect it, it could bring some opportunities.

“We would be able to lower tariffs and negotiate and bring into effect new free trade deals straight away. There would be the immediate recovery of full legislative and regulatory control, including over immigration policy, and – whilst mindful of our legal obligations – a swifter end to our financial contributions to the EU,” he said.