Britain will make a “spectacular success” of Brexit, whether there is a deal with the EU or not.
Brexit secretary David Davis gave an upbeat speech to Grantham and Stamford Conservatives, earning a standing ovation from the 160 present.
The comments were made before this week’s government announcements concerning brexit.
In his speech to the Association Dinner at the Holiday Inn Peterborough-West, the man heading our negotiations with Brussels, also said:
- The party had compromised and united behind Theresa May’s recent Mansion House speech.
- Britain would leave the EU without a deal should the terms offered not be good enough. No deal would also mean no £40bn annual payment to Brussels.
-But he was “95 per cent confident” there would be a deal with the European Union and it wouldn’t be Britain’s fault if there wasn’t one.
After paying tribute to Nick Boles as a “great parliamentarian” who was “very, very brave” for turning up in a wheelchair to vote for Article 50, Mr Davis gave a detailed speech on the state of play.
The MP, who had flown in from Bulgaria that morning, described himself as “the luckiest man in politics” because his job matters and would “change history.”
He faced “nonsense” from the EU commission but he “put up with it” because “it matters.”
His role faced three simple tests – “meeting the requirements of the referendum”, delivering an outcome that was the “best for the country” and one that “holds the party together.”
Mr Davis said the referendum was not about migration but “the destiny of our country, taking back control of our country.”
He also said: “If we don’t hold the party together. We won’t deliver.”
Labour is “ruthless” he warned and would exploit any Conservative divisions over Brexit, as it did over the Treaty of Maastricht in the early 1990s, which led the Conservatives to be out of power for 13 years.
“It means sometimes I have to make compromises I would rather not make.”
Thus, the party met at Chequers and came up with a strategy to hold the party together. The entire cabinet had signed up, the entire parliamentary party had signed up, from Anna Soubry to Jacob Rees-Mogg, to the Mansion House speech the prime minister had just made.
For himself, Mr Davis faced the “central conundrum” of striking a deal that “gives parliament the right to change decisions in the future” while having to “get the continental Europeans not to fear we will cripple their economy, their future, their project.”
A deal would “square the circle” by having an independent arbitrator to settle disagreements on standards. But standards would eventually diverge as the UK would not primarily be competing with the EU, but the rest of the world.
Ninety-per cent of growth in trade came from outside the EU. In 1999, 60 per cent of UK trade was with the EU, by 2020 this would be 40 per cent.
“If you are running a business, which sector do you focus on? Where do you spend your effort on? We are competing with the rest of the world. We are competing with China, India, Brazil. We are going to be beating them on quality, beating them on capability.”
Eighty-five per cent of UK business was services, its intellectual property.
“We will win because we are clever. Dyson doesn’t win because it’s products are cheaper. It’s because they are better.”
The EU Commission was not used to dealing with a “big proud country like Britain.”
“The commission doesn’t want Britain to succeed. They are terrified if we make this a success that other countries will seek to copy us. The result of that will be a break-up of the EU.”
Mr Davis had just toured 12 countries advising them what their own individual interest was and to identify the benefits to them of an agreement.
There were “tricks” being played against the UK, he said, citing a dispute over the Galileo GPS system, but “my job in part is not to let them drive me mad. One of those things I have to ensure is if this thing goes wrong, it won’t be our fault.”
The EU has had to make “27-way” compromises which hampers its ability to make trade deals.
“When we do a deal with individual countries , it will be a deal that suits Britain and those countries. We will do fantastically great deals with these people. The deals we will do will be about selling the things we are good at – Jaguar, food, scientific investment, Dyson cleaners. We will do deals that suit that.
“We will need to do a deal with the EU on the City. If we do not, the City will still be the biggest financial sector. We will ensure it stays that way by whatever method we need to do.
“It will require a tough approach and a willingness to walk away. One of the reasons David Cameron failed with his EU negotiations, he was unable to walk away. He did not believe he had another option to what was offered.”
Mr Davis rejected the view of those who believe Britain is not big or capable enough. He recalled British history, its empire once covering a third of the world, 1.5 billion people speaking English, a leading legal system also used elsewhere.
“We will leave. We will make a spectacular success of it. We will make a spectacular success of it whether there is a deal or not. The deal will give us safety in the short term. If they don’t want us to do that, we will go through a few years of friction and difficulties.”
But it won’t be as bad as what people say, he continued, citing predictions from the Bank of England and others forcasting disaster not when we left but when we decided to leave.
Instead, manufacturing has since gone up, employment has gone up, exports have gone up and unemployment down.
Mr Davis was “95 per cent confident” no deal won’t happen but “we have not to fear it (no deal) to get the right deal.”
But leadership was needed throughout the various stages of negotiation and “every time there will be a point of terror, where we need to hold our nerve.”
He recalled how the leadership of Margaret Thatcher transformed Britain from being the “sick man of Europe.”
And concluded: “This is just as big in our history as that was.”
In the questions that followed, Mr Davis said those anti-Brexit MPs who seek a “meaningful vote” simply seek to block Brexit.
He was confident the government would win a vote, citing Labour MPs in Leave areas and warned: “It will be a brave (Tory) MP that votes against the government”, who would face the end of their careers.
“If they vote the deal is not good enough, if they vote against, we leave without a deal. After two years, do you think I will get a better deal?”
Mr Davis said the EU seeking a border “down the Irish Sea” is “completely unacceptable - that’s not going to happen.”
“If they (the commission) stick by that, the deal will break, everything breaks, the £40Bn goes too.”
On fishing, the UK will also “take control of our waters back.”
“We will take back control of our fishing waters – setting catch quotas, we will build up our fishing industry in a managed way.”
Before the diners gave their standing ovation, Nick Boles told everyone he was left “more confident tonight” a deal would be struck that was “fair.”
Association chairman Philip Sagar said afterwards: ”Whatever your stance on Brexit, 160 attendees left more confident after listening to David explain the negotiations with the EU were, despite all the reported angst and discord in the media, going as expected.
“David spent the last two weeks visiting European capitals talking directly to the decision makers, not the commission who still want to punish us. Thankfully that is not the pragmatic view of our European friends who also need a trade deal to protect their own economies. Expect more posturing over the coming months from Junkers et al. Better to work together and make the process less of a staged pantomime.
“Thankfully, David has the stamina, charm and determination to succeed. Good to see he made time to talk to all. From the moment I picked him up from the station to him leaving members of the public were shaking his hand and wishing him well. I shall sleep a lot better having heard him speak.” jjjjjjjjjj