David Davis has said he expects Parliament to “uphold” the government’s policy of leaving the customs union.
The Brexit secretary told MPs he always “respected” the wishes of Parliament, even when they defied ministers, but he believed they would not in this case.
MPs will hold a non-binding vote on the issue on Thursday after the Lords voted for some form of future customs union.
Mr Davis also said the Commons motion on the final Brexit deal expected this autumn could be amended by MPs.
This is seen as significant as it will potentially give MPs – who have previously been told a vote on the final deal will be a “take it or leave it” one – much more influence over the process ahead of the UK’s exit in March 2019.
With Labour, the Lib Dems and the SNP, plus a handful of Tories, in favour of remaining in some form of customs union after the UK leaves, the government is at risk of potential defeat when the defining vote is held next month.
While the UK would remain a “de facto” member of the customs union during a 20-month transition period after Brexit, Mr Davis told the Commons Brexit select committee that there were “huge competitive advantages” to leaving in terms of boosting the UK’s share of global trade.
He said he hoped to get off to a “racing start” by implementing new trade deals quickly with countries like Canada after December 2020 – when the transition period will end.
Mr Davis also rejected reports that the EU had dismissed out of hand the UK’s solutions for avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland.
It was suggested last week that EU officials believe neither free trade nor technological solutions are feasible and Northern Ireland will have to remain in full regulatory alignment in many areas with the Republic of Ireland – the so-called “backstop option”.
Mr Davis, who visited Northern Ireland last week, said this last outcome was “unacceptable – because it starts a process of effectively breaking up the UK”.
He said it was seen by all concerned as the “least most desirable outcome” – or what he described as a “reserve parachute” if all else failed – and far more preferable was to settle it through a comprehensive trade deal.
“The general view is a free trade agreement will make the Northern Irish border issue much much easier to deal with but also will protect Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland’s markets and economic position.”
While there were “hard issues” involved and the process would not be “straightforward”, he said the situation was not “as difficult” as many people were trying to make out.
Warning against “artificial timetables”, he rejected claims the UK was running out of time, pointing out that Irish prime minister Leo Varadkar had said a workable deal by October was more important than any deal this summer.
Mr Davis clashed with the committee chair, Labour MP Hilary Benn, at the start of the hearing after he said only be able to devote 90 minutes to the session because he had to prepare for a cabinet meeting later.
Mr Benn said this was “not satisfactory” as the sessions were “very important” to MPs and accused the Brexit secretary of “cutting short” his appearance.
The Brexit secretary said he made “himself available whenever possible” and would continue to do so.
He told MPs that his department was operating at the “maximum pace” in negotiations, diplomacy, policy and parliamentary activity.
Article Source : http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-43892222