David Davis should announce UK withdrawal from the negotiations unless the European Council consents to trade talks

David Davis should announce UK withdrawal from the negotiations unless the European Council consents to trade talks

With the latest round of Brexit negotiations concluding in Brussels today, Richard Tweed has penned remarks that Brexit Secretary David Davis might like to consider making at their press conference later… 

Thank you Michel. The EU will now consider whether these talks have made enough progress for the EU to be willing to discuss their ongoing relationship with the UK after Brexit. While you do that, the UK Government will consider whether the talks have made enough progress for us to have any confidence that the EU is serious about negotiating a deal with the UK. The UK needs to know whether you want a deal or not.

Contrary to the wording and the spirit of Article 50, the EU has continued to refuse to discuss our ongoing relationship. I remind you of the terms under which these talks are taking place. Article 50 says that the EU shall “negotiate and conclude an agreement with the (departing) state setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union”.

I repeat the phrase: “…taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union”.

I must tell you that I shall report to the UK Government that after five months of talks, only limited progress has been made. Currently there is no sign that the EU intends to negotiate in accordance with Article 50 and to discuss the arrangements for our future relationship simultaneously with those for our withdrawal.

The UK will not agree the terms of our withdrawal independently from those of our future relationship. Specifically the EU cannot seriously expect the UK to agree to pay a fixed sum of money before it knows whether a good deal on trade and other matters can be agreed.

We have also been disappointed in the EU’s reaction to the papers that we have published on different aspects of our departure. The routine response from the EU has not been to use them as a basis of negotiation, but merely to criticise them as either lacking in detail or failing to set out what the UK wants.

We have also spent time discussing topics that are frankly absurd. No other country accepts that the European Court of Justice should be the supreme court in their land in respect of EU citizens within those countries or for any other matter. Nor will the UK accept this.

If the EU continues to refuse to discuss all aspects of our departure, we must conclude that they do not wish to negotiate any deal at all.

Michel, I appreciate that you are negotiating in accordance with the instructions that you have been given by the Council of Ministers, so I say to the Council that they should immediately revise your instructions and remove all those requirements which prevent normal negotiation and authorise you to speedily agree a mutually beneficial deal.  If this has not been done by 30th November 2017, the UK will have to conclude that it is not possible to negotiate a deal with the EU.

If the UK Government draws this conclusion, then my delegation and I will not come to any more of these monthly talks. We will leave a team in Brussels and if the EU wishes to bring forward any matters, our team will listen to what you have to say and will report back to me.

For some time now, the Department for Exiting the European Union has been making contingency plans for a departure from the EU without any agreement. If talks break down as I have just described, we will focus our efforts on preparations for exiting the EU at midnight on 29th March 2019 without any deal.

In the context of our departure from the EU without a deal, the Council of Ministers, Presidents, Commissioners and MEPs should be aware of the following:

  • If we exit the EU without a deal, the law is quite clear: payments to the EU are requirements under the Treaties. From the moment that a state leaves the EU, the Treaties cease to apply and therefore no further payments are legally due.
  • Trade with the EU is much less important to the UK economy than it is to those of many of the other 27 remaining countries. In fact only 12% of UK GDP comes from exports to the EU: the average World Trade Organisation tariff of 4% on these exports is unlikely to cause a major blow to our economy.
  • The EU exports significantly more to the UK than the UK exports to the EU. In fact, we buy more from the majority of the individual countries of the EU than they buy from us. If there is no deal, while harm to our respective populations will not be large, tariffs will harm your citizens more than they will harm the citizens of the UK. A good free trade deal between us is more beneficial to you than it is to us. Suggestions that we might pay for continued access to the Single Market are ridiculous. Why would we pay you so that we can buy more from you than you buy from us?
  • Only 5% of UK businesses export to the EU. Many of these companies already export under WTO rules to other countries around the world and so it should not be a major problem for them to apply those rules to EU transactions. The UK Government will provide support to any business that needs help to adapt its EU business to WTO rules.

While we would very much like to have a deal with the EU, the UK has little to fear from an exit from the EU with no deal. I remind you of the following facts about Global Britain:

  • We are the world’s 5th largest economy.
  • We have one of the world’s most powerful military and intelligence services.
  • We speak the world’s language of business.
  • We export more to countries outside the EU than to EU countries and the proportion of our exports going to EU countries has been falling for many years.
  • We have long-standing, close relationships with Commonwealth countries whose economies are growing fast, represent 30% of the world’s population and 20% of its land area. We aim to improve our trading and other relationships with these countries, something that we have been restrained from doing as a member of the EU.
  • In London, we have the greatest financial centre in the world.
  • We have 5 universities in the world’s top 20 (EU countries have none).

I could go on, but I will conclude, Michel, by inviting you and the Council of Ministers to reflect on these points. I hope that I will hear from you before 30th November that in accordance with Article 50 you will in future negotiate with the UK on all matters concerning our withdrawal and our future relationship and that you will genuinely aim to conclude a deal that benefits the people of all our countries.

I leave you to decide for whom the clock ticks.