Brexit secretary David Davis has told a German business conference that his government is pursuing a ‘No Change’ transition deal with the EU, and that Britain will remain “the same country it has always been” after Brexit.
The speech, which also confirms that Theresa May’s administration is seeking a so-called transition period of “about two years”, will come as a surprise to Leave voters who hoped Brexit could usher in radical change and reform.
The 68-year-old framed his remarks in terms of Britain not turning isolationist, stating: “I read [in the German press] that ‘Britain wants to isolate itself’, that we are ‘short-sighted islanders’ … Well, I’m afraid I have to disagree.
“We are the same country we have always been. With the same values and same principles we have always had. A country upon which our partners can rely.”
Davis tells German audience “transition period” will “keep…role of the ECJ” and “all the EU regulators and agencies” for ‘about 2 years’ pic.twitter.com/TChRgWXQUC
— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) November 16, 2017
Elaborating on the controversial transition deal proposals, David said that the Tory government envisages it as a period in which Britain retains “both the rights of a European Union member and the obligations of one, such as the role of the European Court of Justice,” and “staying in all the EU regulators and agencies” during that period.
This means the Tories plan on leaving Britain’s relationship with the bloc completely unchanged — except that it may lose its representation in the European Parliament — until at least 2021.
David Davis is in Berlin tonight speaking about the strong trade relationship between the UK and Germany and how we want to strengthen it even further in the years to come pic.twitter.com/8DVY95Ep66
— Department for Exiting the EU (@DExEUgov) November 16, 2017
The Brexit secretary’s attempts to persuade German business leaders to push for Britain to be “a third country partner [to the EU] like no other … uniquely integrated on everything from energy networks to services” appear to have been largely unsuccessful, despite the implications of a less-than-complete Brexit.
Telegraph journalists present for the speech reported that his pleas that “putting politics above prosperity is never a smart choice” were greeted with “incredulous laughter”.
“This old man is destroying Britain’s future,” scoffed Jürgen Müller, CEO of outsourcing company SIG. “He is being a British gentleman, lying with style,” commented another.
Top German MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel, himself a former head of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), said he believes that Berlin — like Michel Barnier and Guy Verhofstadt — wants “unconditional surrender” from Britain on everything from the ECJ to the divorce bill, and that this attitude may lead to talks collapsing.