New UK Brexit secretary in Brussels for first round of talks since taking office
The new UK Brexit secretary Dominic Raab was due in Brussels on Thursday for his first round of talks with Michel Barnier, his EU counterpart.
Dominic Raab Photo credit: Press Association
It will be the first time the two men have come face to face since David Davis resigned from the role, because he said he could not back EU the recently-brokered Chequers agreement on Brexit.
Raab had earlier been criticised by Labour for failing to show up on Monday for the first round of negotiations since he became Brexit secretary.
Jenny Chapman, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Minister,said, “Over the past week the Government’s Brexit strategy has descended into utter chaos. But rather than trying to repair the damage and negotiate with Brussels, the new Brexit secretary decided to take the evening off and attend a summer drinks reception. This is simply not good enough. Dominic Raab needs to rethink his priorities.”
The resumption of talks in Brussels on Thursday threatened to be overshadowed by news that the EU has primed member states to be ready for a ‘no deal’.
According to a draft paper seen by the BBC, the European Commission has warned the EU27 to improve their preparations for a ‘no-deal’ Brexit scenario. The document reportedly states that possible consequences of not reaching a deal include disruption to the aviation industry and UK goods being subject to customs checks at borders.
The paper also warns that each member state and EU institution is responsible for making appropriate arrangements for this scenario, adding that preparations must be stepped up immediately in various areas including borders, transport, data and medicine.
It was also reported on Thursday that Raab is set to distribute around 70 technical documents to businesses and households explaining the implications of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit for various sectors.
Elsewhere, UK Prime Minister Theresa May was visiting Northern Ireland and the Irish border on Thursday, ahead of a speech tomorrow in Belfast where she will emphasise the government’s commitment to avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland and protecting the Good Friday agreement.
Her visit to the province comes a day after Boris Johnson gave his resignation speech in the House of Commons, where the former foreign minister accused the government of “dithering” in Brexit negotiations, and urged them to “again aim explicitly for that glorious vision of Lancaster House - a strong, independent self-governing Britain that is genuinely open to the world, not the miserable permanent limbo of Chequers.”
He argued that the Chequers proposal for a common rulebook in goods meant “volunteering for economic vassalage,” and that, coupled with the government’s facilitated customs arrangement plan, it would leave “much less scope to do free trade deals.”
He also warned, “It is absolute nonsense to imagine, as I fear some of my colleagues do, that we can somehow afford to make a botched treaty now, and then break and reset the bone later on. Because we have seen, even in these talks, how the supposedly provisional becomes eternal.”
Meanwhile, Keir Starmer, Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary, said, “Dominic Raab’s appointment to the Brexit department changes nothing.
“The deep division at the heart of the Conservative party has broken out in public and plunged this Government into crisis. It is now clearer than ever that Theresa May does not have the authority to negotiate for Britain or deliver a Brexit deal that protects jobs and the economy.”
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