Like you I received a letter from David Davis yesterday and while I am enormously respectful of his views and experience, I wanted to share my thoughts on why I think he is wrong.
His main premise is that there exists an alternative to leaving the EU, which is neither the Government’s one, nor “no deal”.
He is right.
The other alternatives are versions of Canada or Norway. Having sat in Cabinet for two years and having attended the smaller Brexit cabinet, I participated in the discussions on the negatives and positives of these options.
From these discussions it was obvious that neither the Norway nor the Canada options addressed our country’s unique position, as one of the largest and most influential countries in Europe and with the 6th largest economy in the world.
So it was always the U.K Government’s intention to get a bespoke deal.
The Government’s proposals seek to deliver on us leaving the EU and recognise our unique position. They would allow us to control our borders, money and laws – as the Prime Minister has said.
The proposal for a Canada version with or without pluses, is not acceptable to those of us committed to the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and committed also to frictionless trade to protect our successful manufacturing businesses. Industry needs the “just in time” delivery across EU borders that has so successfully kept their products competitive.
David says that nobody wants a hard border. He is right about that too. But it is not enough to say nobody wants it if you propose a solution that would deliver it. The Canada deal being offered for the U.K. by the EU that he refers to effectively excludes N. Ireland.
As we leave the EU, nobody is getting all of what want they want. Nobody can. That is what happens in negotiations. There is give and take.
The approach of Conservatives is always to be practical, to understand the needs of a modern market economy and to make sure that while principled we are also realistic.
David points to the electoral consequence of getting this wrong. He is also right about that. But I think he isn’t right in his interpretation of what the voters want.
My view, underpinned by polling undertaken recently, is that there is a quiet majority in this country who want us to leave or at least accept that we should leave – either because they favour leaving or because they want the referendum result to be respected – but will not allow the success of our economy or the hard won peace process of Northern Ireland to be threatened.
At the next election the Conservatives will want to be the party that protects and advances prosperity for everyone and argues that our opponents are too ideological to do the same. We can only fight and win that campaign if people trust in the common sense and practicality of a Conservative Government.
The electoral consequences of our decision are not the first thing the Government is thinking about anyway, but the politics are pretty much the same as the economics. They dictate a willingness to compromise and an adherence to realism and common sense.
The PM is in the final stages of negotiating a deal. Alternative proposals at the last hour are neither viable nor preferable.
Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP