In a speech made on Monday in the House of Commons, David Davis – the Secretary of State for the Department for Exiting the European Union – confirmed that following the vote by the British population to leave the EU, the UK will not “attempt to stay in the EU by the back door”. Davis also reiterated the UK’s intention to negotiate a new and unique relationship with the EU instead of agreeing to an “off the shelf solution”. Davis highlighted the consultation the UK government is having both with British organisations, companies and institutions, and with the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This consultation, he explains, will ensure that the government has a UK-wide consensus on its negotiation position.
To read the full speech, please click here.
Following his speech, Davis received questions from the Members of Parliament. In his answers, Davis made further statements about the Department for Exiting the European Union’s current strategy. Firstly, he stated that the UK staying in the single market was “very improbable”, with the UK instead looking for a “free trade agreement” with other European countries.
Davis claimed that it was “problems of sovereignty” within the Single Market which “drove this referendum”, in particular, the fact that one of the requirements of membership to the single market was the Freedom of Movement of people. According to Davis, seeking a free trade agreement instead would bring “opportunities” whilst allowing the UK to decide on “borders”, “laws” and “taxpayers’ money”.
However, whilst not wanting membership of the Single Market, the minister did state that the UK wanted the “the best possible access” to the market. He also implied that the UK had a strong negotiating position, thinking a “unique solution” was needed for the UK given it being “a large market for very important industries in the European Union”.
Davis restated that Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty will be “triggered as soon as is reasonably possible” and that claims the UK had to exit the EU before renegotiating terms were “nonsense”, further stating that in all different languages, Article 50 refers to “the parallel negotiations that need to take place”.
The minister also stated it would “take a little while” to work out how to disentangle the corpus of European law from UK law, saying that, although his “starting position” was simply to put all of EU law into British law and “take it from there”, he conceded “it does not quite work like that.”
To read the full Q&A, please click here.
However, on Tuesday, a spokeswoman for the Prime Minister stated that the Secretary’s speech merely reflected Davis’ own views and that the work on the Brexit negotiations is ongoing. This comment has been interpreted as Theresa May distancing herself from the Secretary’s position. Commentators have said that this has highlighted the difficulty May faces in uniting her Brexit team around a single approach.