No deal, no €43.6bn for European Union, warns UK minister

Dominic Raab. Photo: PA
Dominic Raab. Photo: PA

Britain will refuse to pay its £39bn (€43.6bn) divorce bill to Brussels if the European Union fails to agree a trade deal, the new Brexit minister pledged yesterday.

In an interview, Dominic Raab said he would make the vast payment formally conditional on the EU “fulfilling its side of the bargain”.

The promise will be welcomed by leading Brexiteers after the UK government said in May there were no plans for a legally enforceable link between the bill and a future trading relationship.

Amid a breakdown of trust with No 10, pro-Brexit MPs had threatened to force an amendment into the government’s Implementation Bill in the autumn after Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond claimed “walking away from an obligation … would not make us a credible partner in future international agreements”.

In a move likely to be welcomed by Leavers, Mr Raab signalled his agreement with their demand that the payment of Britain’s agreed £39bn divorce bill be made conditional on the EU agreeing to a free trade deal.

“You can’t have one side fulfilling its side of the bargain and the other side not, or going slow, or failing to commit on its side,” he said. “So I think we do need to make sure that there’s some conditionality between the two. We need to make it clear that the two are linked.”

The intervention follows a tide of anger over Theresa May‘s Brexit White Paper, which led to the resignation of two of her most senior cabinet ministers and saw Conservative support fall away.

Pro-leave MPs are considering an attempt to topple the prime minister in the autumn.

Mr Raab, a prominent Leave campaigner, also:

  • Admitted he was still attempting to secure the backing of some cabinet ministers for Mrs May’s Brexit strategy;
  • Defended the deal signed off by the cabinet at Chequers last month, saying that he had pushed for its “arbitration” model of resolving trade disputes;
  • Insisted Mrs May was not bluffing when she said she would walk away rather than accept a bad deal;
  • Claimed the Chequers deal could be agreed in 12 weeks if the EU matched the government’s “pragmatism”.

Asked whether he was still working on convincing Cabinet colleagues, Mr Raab said: “I want to make sure we can persuade everyone – grassroots, voters, parliamentary party and ministers, including in the Cabinet – that we’ve got the best deal and the best plan to get the best deal.”

The MP, who was housing minister until July 9, defended the deal, insisting that the Government needed to be “pragmatic” in order to ensure it was “faithful to the key promises in the referendum” as well as “bring[ing] the 52pc and the 48pc of this country together” and secure a “win-win” agreement with the EU.

Asked what he would say to EU officials who claimed Mrs May’s threat to walk away was a bluff, Mr Raab said: “They’re wrong. No bluffing.”

He added: “The ball is now in the EU’s court, and don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty more negotiations, I’ve made that clear.

“But if they show us the same level of ambition, energy, pragmatism, this deal gets done in 12 weeks.”

Raab refuses to deny food stockpiling plan

Britain’s new Brexit Minister Dominic Raab has refused to deny reports the UK government is planning to stockpile food, or use a section of motorway in England as a lorry park to deal with increased border checks if Britain leaves the EU without a deal.

Asked on the BBC’s ‘Andrew Marr Show’ about a story in ‘The Sun’ newspaper that the government was planning to stockpile processed food, Raab initially replied “no” but then added: “That kind of selective snippet that makes it into the media, to the extent that the public pay attention to it, I think is unhelpful.”

Irish Independent

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