Dominic Raab called on the European Union to ‘get serious’ on Brexit negotiations, insisting today that Britain will leave without a deal if necessary.
In a speech at the Conservative Party conference, the Brexit secretary said the UK could be left with ’no choice’ but to quit the bloc with no deal if the EU tries to ‘lock us in’ to a customs union.
Mr Raab accused the EU of failing to match the ‘ambition and pragmatism’ of the UK.
He said: “Our prime minister has been constructive and respectful. In return we heard jibes from senior leaders. And we saw a starkly one-sided approach to negotiation, where the EU’s theological approach allows no room for serious compromise.
“And yet we are expected to cast aside the territorial integrity of our own country. If the EU want a deal, they need to get serious. And they need to do it now.”
He admitted to delegates that ‘there are risks and potential short term disruption’ associated with no deal, but insisted that it remains a possibility.
“Some people say that no deal is unthinkable. Wrong,” he said.
Mr Raab had a robust response to the growing calls for a second referendum on Brexit, accusing campaigners of being undemocratic.
He told the hall: “I’ll tell you what’s not democracy. The efforts of a small, but influential group of senior politicians and establishment figures to overturn the result of the referendum. They want to stop us leaving.”
Shadow Brexit minister Paul Blomfield dismissed the content of Mr Raab’s speech as offering ‘no credible plan.
He said: “Dominic Raab spoke for nearly 30 minutes, but he could have saved everyone‘s time and said just three words: nothing has changed.
“The Brexit secretary offered no credible plan to break the deadlock in negotiations, no credible plan to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland and no credible plan to protect jobs and the economy. It was a speech that offered no solutions on Brexit.”
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Mr Raab’s message came after Jeremy Corbyn warned a no-deal Brexit would be a ‘national disaster’.
In an offer to the Prime Minister, the Labour leader said his party would back her if she struck a deal including a customs union, preservation of workplace and environmental regulations and no hard border in Ireland.
Theresa May hinted on Sunday that she was ready to contemplate further concessions on her Chequers plan for future relations with Europe, telling the BBC she wanted to ‘sit down’ with the EU and discuss its concerns.
After European Council president Donald Tusk said bluntly at this month’s Salzburg summit that Chequers ‘will not work’, Mrs May said that the onus is on Brussels to explain its objections in detail and offer counter-proposals.
She told the Andrew Marr Show: “My mood is to listen to what the EU have to say about their concerns and to sit down and talk them through with them.”