Author: Not mentioned
Posted on: BBC News| December 10th, 2017
Brexit Secretary David Davis says the UK wants to secure a free-trade deal with no tariffs when it leaves the EU.
He described it as «Canada plus plus plus» – a reference to the free trade deal struck between Canada and the EU.
But unlike the Canada deal, he wants financial services included in the tariff-free area, he told Andrew Marr.
Labour says the UK should «stay aligned» to the EU after Brexit and could pay to access the single market like Norway.
The Conservatives claim this would «mean billions of pounds going to the EU in perpetuity» and the UK «being forced to obey rules over which we have no say».
Canada’s deal with the EU, signed last year, removes the vast majority of customs duties on EU exports to Canada and Canadian exports to the EU but does not pay for access to the single market.
‘Find a way’
But Mr Davis said he wanted a «bespoke» deal with the EU and was aiming for «overarching» agreement with no tariffs, that included the service industries – which are a key part of the British economy.
He said the odds of the UK exiting without a deal had «dropped dramatically» following Friday’s joint EU-UK statement in Brussels.
But he stressed that the deal struck by Theresa May on Friday to move to the next phase of talks was a «statement of intent» and not «legally enforceable».
And if the UK failed to get a trade deal with the EU then it would not pay its divorce bill.
Chancellor Philip Hammond has previously suggested the Brexit divorce bill – which the Treasury says will be between £35bn and £39bn – will be paid even if no EU trade deal is struck. Labour has also said it would continue to pay into the EU if there was no deal.
Mr Davis stressed that the UK is committed to keeping a «frictionless and invisible» Irish border and it would «find a way» to do this if there was a «no deal» Brexit.
But the Irish government said that as far as it was concerned the agreement signed on Friday between the EU and the UK was binding.
«The European Union will be holding the United Kingdom to account,» the Irish government’s chief whip told RTE.
«My question to anybody within the British government would be, why would there be an agreement, a set of principled agreements, in order to get to phase two, if they weren’t going to be held up? That just sounds bizarre to me,» Joe McHugh told RTE Radio’s This Week.
Prime Minister Theresa May signed an agreement on Friday ruling out the return of a «hard border» on the island of Ireland, protecting the rights of EU and UK citizens and agreeing a formula for the divorce bill.
EU leaders are now expected to recommend starting the next phase of Brexit talks at a summit on Thursday.
But Mr Davis stressed Friday’s agreement was conditional on achieving an «overarching» trade deal with the EU, agreements on security and foreign affairs, as well as the two-year transition period the UK wants after if officially leaves the EU in March 2019.
Friday’s agreement includes a fallback position if the UK fails to get a trade deal, which proposes full regulatory «alignment» between the EU and the UK.
This clause had been diluted at the insistence of the Democratic Unionist Party, which fears Northern Ireland would be separated from the rest of the UK, and move closer to Ireland, if it had to adopt EU rules to keep goods flowing across the border.
But there is still controversy, and confusion, over what «full alignment» would mean in practice, with some Brexiteers fearing the UK would have to continue to abide by EU regulations on agriculture and other issues after Brexit and would not be able to strike its own trade deals.
Mr Davis has said «full alignment» would apply to the whole of the UK, not just Northern Ireland, but the Sunday Telegraph said Conservative Brexiteers had been reassured that it was «non-binding» and had been included to secure Ireland’s backing for the deal.
Pushed to explain what it meant, Mr Davis told Andrew Marr: «We want to protect the peace process and we also want to protect Ireland from the impact of Brexit for them. This was a statement of intent more than anything else.»
He added: «I think if we don’t get a deal we’re going to have to find a way of making sure we keep the frictionless border – as it were an invisible border – in Northern Ireland.»
The Labour party has ruled out remaining in the EU single market and customs union if it wins power.
But the party’s shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said he wanted a partnership with the EU that «retains the benefits of the single market and the customs union».
‘Tory civil war’
Asked if Mrs May’s deal would mean Britain would stay very close to the single market and the customs union, he said: «Yes, and I think that’s the right thing and I think we should hold her to that because that goes to the heart of the question what sort of Britain do we want to be?
«Do we see Europe as our major trading partner in the future or do we want to rip ourselves apart from that?»
Asked if Britain would have to carry on paying some money in, he said: «Norway pays money in, they do it actually on a voluntary basis… there may have to be payments, that’s to be negotiated.»
The Labour leadership has rejected offers from the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party to join forces to push Mrs May to keep the UK in the single market.
They say this is not what people voted for in last year’s EU referendum and the UK needed a «custom» trade deal that retained some form of customs union membership.
Lib Dem Brexit spokesman Tom Brake said: «The cabinet truce on Brexit after the first phase agreement on Friday lasted a matter of hours.
«First, [Michael] Gove hints strongly at a harder Brexit in years to come and now Davis is resuscitating the utterly irresponsible notion of a ‘no deal’ Brexit to try to avert the coming Tory civil war.»