David Davis (pictured in Downing Street this week) will tomorrow head to Brussels with a vow Brexit will definitely happen in a rebuke to the new French president Emmanuel Macron
David Davis will tomorrow head to Brussels with a vow Brexit will definitely happen in a rebuke to the new French president Emmanuel Macron.
The Brexit Secretary will officially open talks with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier at the EU’s headquarters and promised to approach them ‘constructively’.
The talks begin less than a week after Mr Macron used a press conference with Theresa May to make the surprise claim the EU’s door remained open to British membership.
The start of talks is a vital milestone in the two year Article 50 departure process due to expire on March 29, 2019.
On the eve of negotiations today, Chancellor Philip Hammond surprised many by backing the Government’s plans to fully quit the single market and the customs union.
Mr Hammond warned failing to strike a deal would be ‘very bad’ Britain – but he backed Theresa May in insisting a bad deal would be even worse.
In a message to Brussels ahead of the talks, Mr Davis said today: ‘There should be no doubt – we are leaving the European Union, and delivering on that historic referendum result.
‘Now, the hard work begins. We must secure a deal that works for all parts of the United Kingdom, and enables us to become a truly global Britain.
‘Leaving gives us the opportunity to forge a bright new future for the UK – one where we are free to control our borders, pass our own laws and do what independent sovereign countries do.’
On the eve of negotiations today, Chancellor Philip Hammond surprised many by backing the Government’s plans to fully quit the single market and the customs union
Mr Davis said there had been a ‘huge amount of work across Whitehall to prepare for these talks’ and insisted the UK would not ‘turn our backs to Europe’.
He added: ‘These talks will be difficult at points, but we will be approaching them in a constructive way.’
Mr Davis’ hopes of presenting a united government position were boosted by Mr Hammond’s remarks on the Andrew Marr Show.
Despite rumours the Chancellor was preparing to advocate for a softer Brexit, he endorsed a full departure from the single market and the customs union.
Mr Hammond said: ‘We’re leaving the EU and because we are leaving the EU, we will be leaving the single market and by the way, we will be leaving the customs union.
‘The question is not whether we are leaving the customs union.
The talks begin less than a week after Mr Macron used a press conference with Theresa May (pictured) to make the surprise claim the EU’s door remained open to British membership
‘The question is what do we put in its place in order to deliver the objectives the Prime Minister set out in her Lancaster House speech of having no hard land border in Ireland and enabling British goods to flow freely backwards and forwards across the border with the European Union?
‘It’s a statement of common sense that if we are going to radically change the way we work together, we need to get there via a slope, not a cliff edge.’
Mr Hammond said the prospect of the talks failing would be a ‘very, very bad outcome’ for Britain.
But he said: ‘There is a possible worse outcome and that is a deal that is deliberately structured to suck the lifeblood out of our economy over a period of time.’
Labour’s position remained unclear today as shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said Britain should explore remaining in the customs union – something which would rule out trade deals.
The Brexit Secretary will officially open talks with his EU counterpart Michel Barnier (file picture in May) at the EU’s headquarters and promised to approach them ‘constructively’
During an interview on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Sir Keir said Theresa May had ‘alienated our allies in Europe’ with her Brexit approach, and he said Britain could not stay in the single market in ‘an unreformed, unchanged way’ – but sidestepped questions on the details, saying it is more important to focus on the outcome.
He said: ‘You can only be a full member of the single market if you are an EU member and therefore it is obvious that we are looking for something else.
‘The question is do we leave options on the table, and I’ve said repeatedly – yes, let’s leave options on the table.’
Sir Keir acknowledged freedom of movement for people would end after Brexit but said membership of the customs unions should ‘stay on the table’.
Asked whether Britain could stay inside the customs union, he said: ‘Yes.’
He added: ‘I think the Prime Minister has got us into a complete mess. She’s got no mandate here and she’s got no authority abroad and the negotiation starts tomorrow.
‘Things have to change. Her approach so far has alienated our allies in Europe, it’s weakened our position with the EU and it’s actually got us into the worst possible starting position.’
Labour’s position remained unclear today as shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer (pictured today with Andrew Marr) said Britain should explore remaining in the customs union