David Davis MP, Britain’s new Minister for Exiting the European Union, has said that Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty must be invoked by the end of the year, triggering Britain’s departure from the Union.
The new Prime Minister Theresa May had previously said that she would not seek to invoke Article 50 this year, telling ITV earlier this month: “What is important is that we do this in the right timescale and we do it to get the right deal for the UK.”
But as she took office last night she announced three new appointments to her cabinet, including two newly created positions: Minister for Exiting the European Union, taken up by David Davis, and Minister for International Trade, a post which has been filled by Liam Fox. Both Dr. Fox and Mr. Davis are outspoken Brexiteers.
Boris Johnson, another prominent Leave campaigner during the European Union (EU) Referendum debate, has meanwhile been handed the role of Foreign Secretary.
The appointments signal Mrs. May’s willingness to follow through with her promise that “Brexit means Brexit,” and perhaps a willingness to let her pro-Leave ministers set the agenda on how that should be done.
By coincidence, Mr. Davis had laid out detailed plans on how Britain’s departure from the EU should be managed just three days ago, in an article for ConservativeHome.
He made it clear that, despite the keenness of some European politicians for Britain to invoke Article 50 immediately, he believes it is in Britain’s best interest to hold off until later this year, not least as there have been indications on the continent that they are not willing to grant Britain access to the European single market unless she also agrees to retain the freedom of movement rules which currently accompany it.
“The ideal outcome, (and in my view the most likely, after a lot of wrangling) is continued tariff-free access. Once the European nations realise that we are not going to budge on control of our borders, they will want to talk, in their own interest,” Mr. Davis predicted.
“But what if it they are irrational, as so many Remain-supporting commentators asserted they would be in the run up to the referendum? This is one of the reasons for taking a little time before triggering Article 50.”
The tactic brings other benefits too, he said.
“The negotiating strategy has to be properly designed, and there is some serious consultation to be done first. Constitutional propriety requires us to consult with the Scots, Welsh, and Northern Irish governments first, and common sense implies that we should consult with stakeholders like the City, CBI, TUC, small business bodies, the NFU, universities and research foundations and the like.
“None of them should have any sort of veto, but we should try to accommodate their concerns so long as it does not compromise the main aim. This whole process should be completed to allow triggering of Article 50 before or by the beginning of next year.”
The wide ranging article also laid out plans to immediately begin negotiations on trade deals with countries including the U.S., China, India, and Australia in order to reap the benefits of international trade as soon as possible, and to cut taxes and red tape at home to free British industry from the sclerotic effects of Brussels regulation.
Laying out his vision, he predicted: “So how will this look if we get it right? We will have a more dynamic economy, trading throughout the world. Our businesses will have greater global opportunities, and will be more competitive. There will be lower prices in the shops, once we are outside the Common External Tariff. There will be higher wages for the poorest. An immigration system that allows us to control numbers. Control of our laws, so our lives are not hampered by needless and restrictive regulations.”
All of this is likely to be welcomed by the outgoing UKIP leader and long time Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage, despite his calls for Article 50 to be invoked at the “earliest realistic opportunity”.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) July 12, 2016
Mr. Farage took to twitter this morning to endorse the appointments of Dr. Fox and Mr. Davis, saying they made him feel “more optimistic” about the prospects for Brexit.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) July 13, 2016
Commenting on the new government’s composition, Mr. Farage said: “The government must now get on with its job and inspire confidence.
Whilst I did not want Mrs. May, a Remain supporter, to become Prime Minister she has now said “Brexit means Brexit”. To hold faith with over 17 million voters who opted for Leave she must trigger Article 50 at the earliest realistic opportunity. I hope she picks a strong negotiating team.
“UKIP will be watching like a hawk to ensure that there is no backsliding.”