BREXIT Secretary David Davis will enter tomorrow’s negotiations telling the EU there is “no doubt” we are leaving despite European leaders’ attempts to leave open the door to Britain reversing the referendum result.
In a slap down to Cabinet colleagues who want a softer Brexit, Mr Davis said he was heading to the first official talks “on a mission to deliver on the will of the British people”.
After 10 months of planning, Mr Davis will meet the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier to agree the structure of the negotiations so officials have a framework in which to discuss substantive issues.
Confident of a “positive outcome”, Mr Davis said yesterday: “As I head to Brussels to open official talks to leave the EU, there should be no doubt – we are leaving the European Union and delivering on that historic referendum result.
“Now the hard work begins. We must secure a deal that works for all parts of the United Kingdom, and enables us to become a truly global Britain.
You don’t reconfigure your troops on the eve of battle
“Leaving gives us the opportunity to forge a bright new future for the UK – one where we are free to control our borders, pass our own laws and do what independent sovereign countries do.”
Mr Davis privately reassured Brexiteer backbenchers last week that he would not water down Brexit after it was reported Chancellor Philip Hammond, a Remainer, was pushing for Britain to remain in the customs union.
That would result in Britain being unable to forge new trade deals with non-EU countries.
Likening himself to a military general, Mr Davis told Eurosceptic MPs: “We’ve been planning for a clean Brexit for the past 10 months. You don’t reconfigure your troops on the eve of battle.”
During a meeting with Prime Minister Theresa May in Paris on Tuesday, French president Emmanuel Macron said “the door remained open” to Britain staying in the EU.
After being forced to cancel a speech at Mansion House on Thursday night because of the Grenfell Tower fire, Mr Hammond then called on Britain to take a “pragmatic approach” during a meeting with EU finance ministers in Luxembourg.
Calling for Britain to prioritise protecting jobs and the economy, he stopped short of confirming whether UK would leave the single market and customs union.
Mr Hammond is due to appear on The Andrew Marr Show today.
Yesterday Mr Davis insisted Britain was seeking a “deep and special partnership” with the EU, adding: “We are not turning our backs on Europe. It’s vital the deal we strike allows both the UK and the EU to thrive, as part of the new deep and special partnership we want with our closest allies and friends.
“These talks will be difficult at points, but we will be approaching them in a constructive way.”
He also set out a bold vision for the UK’s future after it leaves the EU, emphasising the “exciting opportunities” ahead. He said: “We will soon introduce Bills for new immigration and customs arrangements, and the Great Repeal Bill will transpose all EU law into UK law, providing certainty for businesses.
“There has been a huge amount of work across Whitehall to prepare us for these talks and make sure we get the best possible deal with the European Union.”
Mr Davis will lead a four-strong team of negotiators in the talks at the Berlaymont, the European Commission’s Brussels HQ.
A source at the Department for Exiting the European Union told the Sunday Express: “David is well prepared for a tough battle. “He’s very much thinking about the negotiation in terms of people, and money. He’s confident of early agreement on citizenship rights .
“The Northern Ireland issue will be much more complicated. Then when it comes to the money, the approach will be not even to discuss the so-called divorce bill until a deal has been done. He’s very confident of getting the best deal for Britain.”
Yesterday it was reported that Brussels would be willing to slash the divorce bill to £35billion, having been expected to demand a settlement closer to £90billion.