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Dominic Raab says those concerned about Brexit warnings of damage to UK car industry should 'show more mettle'

The Brexit secretary also accused some MPs of being 'used' by Brussels to pressure the UK government

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Tuesday 04 September 2018 20:41 BST
Dominic Raab says Emma Reynolds should be -showing a bit of mettle and standing up for this country

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has brushed aside warnings about damage to the UK car industry, claiming those concerned should be “showing a bit of mettle”.

He argued warnings from EU official Michel Barnier were simply a negotiating ruse, despite similar ones having been made by UK-based manufacturers like Jaguar Land Rover, Ford and BMW.

The minister also accused MPs who highlighted Mr Barnier’s rejection of Theresa May’s Brexit proposals, of being “used” by Brussels against the UK government.

It comes after Downing Street signalled earlier in the day that it would bypass Mr Barnier, who has called Ms May’s Chequers plan “unacceptable”, and press EU member state leaders directly to work with her proposal.

Mr Raab was updating the commons on talks with Mr Barnier, when he was asked by Labour MP Emma Reynolds about the EU negotiator’s comments that European carmakers should limit the use of UK-made car-parts post-Brexit, to benefit from future trade deals struck by Brussels.

The cabinet minister said: “In this negotiation there’s efforts to put pressure on all sides, in fairness on the UK side, and on the EU side.

“Honestly, I wouldn’t be listening and referring to warnings and forecasts made by the other side in this negotiation, I’d be showing a bit of mettle and standing up for this country.”

GMB General Secretary Tim Roache releases Brexit statement

Jaguar Land Rover warned this summer that changes in the trade relationship with the EU after Brexit will jeopardise jobs in the UK.

Ford also issued warning that it would take “whatever action is needed” to protect its business, after blaming Brexit uncertainty for a colossal £760m drop in its European earnings in 2017.

I wouldn’t be listening and referring to warnings and forecasts made by the other side in this negotiation, I’d be showing a bit of mettle and standing up for this country

Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab

Mike Flewitt, the chief executive of flagship UK firm McLaren Automotive, has also said he is increasingly concerned by a no-deal Brexit – hitting out at politicians who dismiss concerns as project fear.

In the chamber ex-Labour minister Pat McFadden said that when the select committee he is a member of met Mr Barnier, the EU official had given “an emphatic and clear rejection” of Ms May’s Chequers proposals, which the MP claimed was now “in tatters”.

Mr Raab responded: “[Mr McFadden is] an experienced campaigner and he knows a lot about these issues and a lot about negotiations.

Dominic Raab says he's confident Britain can get a good Brexit deal

“So I’m sure he will recognise when he and others are going to be used in a pressure exercise on the UK government in the final phase of the negotiations.”

Mr Barnier had also publicly rejected Ms May’s plans in an interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, claiming they “would be the end of the single market and the European project”.

Asked about the comments earlier on Monday, a Downing Street spokesman commented: “Michel Barnier has said a significant number of things in recent weeks.”

The spokesman went on to indicate the PM would by-pass Brussels negotiators and focus on pressing member state leaders.

He said: “The negotiations are taking place with the commission, we have always respected that fact. But equally this is a decision which at the end of the process will be taken at political level by the European Council.

“So you can obviously expect a continued and stronger engagement with fellow European countries.”

On 20 September Ms May will attend a meeting of EU leaders, hosted in Salzburg, Austria, where leader Sebastian Kurz has made helpful noises for the British PM – talking of his desire to avoid a hard Brexit and extend the Article 50 period if needs be.

The PM’s spokesman added: “You have seen a lot of personal involvement from the prime minister in terms of the meetings she has held with her various counterparts and at the various summits which we have been attending recently.

“We have Salzburg and that will obviously be an opportunity for further engagement between the PM and the 27 leaders of EU member states.”

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