No Deal is still better than no Brexit – but here’s how I’d negotiate a better deal out of the EU

No Deal is still better than no Brexit – but here’s how I’d negotiate a better deal out of the EU

There is no task more important and more urgent than delivering Brexit. This must be the next Prime Minister’s unrelenting focus until it is done. It is a task which will require confidence, craft, vision and attention to detail. It will require the promotion of some relationships and the resetting of others. With the plan I have, and the team I will put together, we should be confident that there is a way through.

I have always said that if the only way to deliver Brexit was through No Deal, I would take it because the democratic risk of not delivering Brexit is higher than the economic risk of No Deal. But I would not aim for No Deal, and would leave no stone unturned to get a better deal than the one we have on the table.

So, first and foremost we must be clear about our objectives, including leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union. It must be a deal that respects the Good Friday Agreement and the Irish border, and that Parliament will agree to.

Secondly, we need a new negotiating team which demonstrably represents a majority in the House of Commons. Unfortunately, one of the main reasons Theresa May failed to extract any meaningful changes to the current Withdrawal Agreement is because the EU simply did not think it was worth offering any. They lost faith that the UK Government could deliver the UK Parliament.

That is why I would invite members of the DUP, Conservative parliamentarians from Scotland and Wales, and from the European Research Group, to join me and my Brexit Secretary to be part of that team. Our European neighbours would then be confident that any deal we presented would have a good chance of securing a parliamentary majority.

Finally, we need to get the tone right. If you want to be treated like a strong country you have to act like a strong country. But while robust, we must be thoughtful and statesmanlike if we are to get the changes we need. European capitals will not agree to anything which they believe could be seen as the EU caving in to a populist, because they fear how that would encourage populism their own countries. Instead, we must build on good relationships, approaching it as a shared problem with a simple, clear and realistic ask.

People say the European Commission will never cave in and reopen the Withdrawal Agreement no matter who makes the request. I know what it’s like to be in that position. People said the London Olympics would be a flop, that the junior doctors dispute would never be settled, and that the Treasury would never give the NHS an extra £350 million a week. I successfully delivered on all of these. Now I believe we have an opportunity to change the backstop and fulfil the manifesto commitment to leave the European Union on which every Conservative Member of Parliament was elected.

However, we cannot be blind to the challenges we face. Any candidate for the job of Prime Minister has to have the confidence and strength to tell uncomfortable truths and deal with the world as they find it, not as we might all wish it to be. I have always said that that No Deal is better than no Brexit and I believe the UK can go on to thrive whatever the outcome, even in No Deal. But the truth is the current Parliament may not countenance this – something the Speaker all but confirmed earlier this week.

My firm view is we cannot consider going back to the people before we have delivered Brexit. As the European election results showed, the usual way out of this bind – to call an election to secure a new mandate and new parliament for no deal – is simply not a credible option for any potential Prime Minister. Not unless they are prepared to risk electoral oblivion and installing Jeremy Corbyn into Number 10. This means no Conservative government and no Brexit. This is something I would not be prepared to do.

Getting a better deal, and leaving the EU as promised, is how we restore our party’s reputation for competence. It is also the first step in a far more ambitious economic renewal of our country. As the first Prime Minister to have been an entrepreneur, I want to turn us into the best place in the world for a young person to set up their own business, as I did 25 years ago.

I would give budding entrepreneurs every advantage possible, and international investors every possible incentive. My pledge to radically reduce Corporation Tax to 12.5% would serve as a symbol across the world that Britain is hungry for their business and hungry for our own economic resurgence. It also sends a message to Europe about our confidence and ambitions for growth.

But we need to get there first. We cannot wish ourselves there. And that means dealing with the realities I have spoken about. That is why my experience, my negotiating track record, and my plan are the best route to leaving the European Union, uniting our party, and healing the divides in our country.