Brexit deal likely to be rejected by MPs if future trade with EU isn't agreed, admits David Davis

‘The hardest time I will have in October is people saying ‘what have we got for this?’’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 25 April 2018 11:01
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David Davis on Brexit trade bill: hardest part is proving 'what have we got for this?'

MPs are likely to reject the Brexit deal in the autumn unless an agreement on future trade with the EU has also been secured, David Davis has admitted.

Theresa May will have the “hardest time” convincing the Commons to sign up to the £39bn-plus “divorce bill” if only flimsy details of the long-term trade deal are known, the brexit secretary said.

“It has to be substantive from a British parliament point of view,” Mr Davis told MPs on the Brexit committee.

He pointed out that the Commons will also be “voting for a bill of £39bn”, adding: “It will want to know what it is getting in exchange.

“The hardest time I will have in October is people saying, ‘what have we got for this?.’”

The comments will be viewed as a possible hostage to fortune, because the EU has insisted there is only time to agree a “framework” for future trade by its October deadline.

During the evidence session, Mr Davis also:

* Insisted the government would win a critical looming Commons vote on leaving the EU customs union, saying: “I expect the government’s policy to be upheld.”

* Denied Brussels had rejected the UK’s technology-based proposals to avoid a hard border in Ireland – insisting that was merely an “opening negotiating position”.

* Set up a future clash over the backstop of “full alignment” of regulations across Ireland, if necessary – revealing the UK would put forward its “own wording” based on “mutual recognition” of standards.

* Twice failed to rule out going back to the negotiating table if MPs reject the exit deal and vote for further talks – despite previously insisting the UK would then crash out with no deal.

* Claimed the Treasury’s own studies, showing the UK will be worse off under every Brexit outcome, were “wrong”, saying: “The best modelling in the world is wrong.”

* Acknowledged the two-year Article 50 process could be extended to delay Brexit beyond March 2019 if there was “unanimity” among the other EU members.

The Independent revealed at the weekend that ministers now accepted the October motion could be amended – rather than being a “take-it-or-leave-it” choice.

Stephen Kinnock, a Labour MP, seized on Mr Davis’ confirmation of that, to suggest the country was on track for a potential “constitutional crisis”.

He asked if the government would accept an amendment to “go back to Brussels and negotiate a different deal” – which the brexit secretary did not rule out.

“I’m not going to speculate on amendments that have not even yet been laid, let alone been passed by the House,” he replied.

Mr Davis also denied suggestions the government was “winging it” over Brexit.

“No, we are not winging it but we are having to accommodate different changes as we go along,” he said.

And the brexit secretary insisted there would not be a repeat of the Windrush scandal, with the children of EU citizens living in Britain, when they are required to apply to stay in the UK.

“At the risk of being mildly self-righteous, I’ll point you to my own speeches early on in this process, where I said our treatment of the European citizens in the UK would be a moral issue, it was a moral imperative and that is how we will treat it,” he said.

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