Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab refused to deny reports the Government is planning to stockpile food in preparation for ‘no deal’ with the EU, as he claimed the UK will be ready for all eventualities.
Speaking on BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Raab also didn’t dispute claims a motorway in Kent could become a “lorry park” if stringent customs checks are implemented by the EU if no trade agreement is reached.
The Brexit Secretary – appointed to the post earlier this month – said he was straining “every sinew” to get “the best deal” with Brussels out of the negotiations, but added: “It’s only the responsible thing to do to be prepared if those negotiations and the energy and the ambition and the pragmatism we’re showing are not reciprocated.”
When asked if it was true that the British Government was planning to stockpile food for a no deal outcome – as reported by The Sun – Raab initially replied “no”, but then added: “That kind of selective snippet that makes it into the media to the extent that the public pay attention to it I think is unhelpful.
He went on “We are making sure both in the allocation of money - £3billion extra allocated last Budget – and through operational things like hiring extra border staff, through the legal arrangements both domestic and the treaty arrangements that we are ready for any and every eventuality and we will gradually and responsibly which is the right thing for the Government to do set out more of the detail of that through technical notices.
“What we’re not going to do, and I’m not going to get drawn into the selective snippets that are leaked and make hair-raising stories.”
Marr also quizzed Raab on whether the M26 in Kent could become “at least in part a lorry park” in the case of ‘no deal’.
Raab replied: “But of course if we have no deal we will want to make sure that we are prepared at the border with the knock-on effects that that would have if on the EU side they take the worst-case scenario approach which is frankly irrational.
“I’m confident we won’t get there, but even if we did we will have the planning in place, the preparation in place, the operational matters in place from the infrastructure to the planning laws to deal with that.”
Raab’s interview comes three days after his first meeting with the EU’s Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, with the two set to meet again this Thursday to continue talks.
The UK had hoped the outline of trade deal could be reached by the European Council’s summit on October 18 – meaning there are fewer than 13 weeks for an agreement to materalise.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Raab reminded the EU that unless a trade deal is secured the UK will no hand over an agreed £39billion ‘divorce’ money to Brussels.
He said: “Article 50 requires, as we negotiate the withdrawal agreement, that there’s a future framework for our new relationship going forward, so the two are linked.
“You can’t have one side fulfilling its side of the bargain and the other side not, or going slow, or failing to commit on its side.”
The possibility of the UK leaving the EU without a trade deal seems to have increased in recent days, with Theresa May’s so-called Chequers Agreement angering some Tory Brexiteers.
Steve Baker, who quit as a Brexit Minister in protest at the plans, warned the Government on Wednesday that were enough hard Brexiteers in his European Research Group caucus to defeat the deal when it reaches Parliament.
Speaking in the Commons, Baker predicted the SNP and Labour would both vote against any agreement for their own interests.
He went on: “That means, therefore, that this is a deal, whether people like it or not, however impartial they may be, they must bring forward a deal which can be voted through by the Conservative Party.
“The number 40 [Hard Brexiteers] has been banded around in this House in the last few days, and I’m sorry to say, and it gives me no pleasure to say it, but the thing I have to say is – and the rest.
“People who have said the number 40 are not out by a fraction when they come to consider the number of Members who don’t like this deal on these benches and are willing to vote in line with this dislike, they are out by a factor, not a fraction.”
Baker’s key objection to the Chequers proposal is that it would see the UK following a common rulebook with the EU on goods and agri-foods.
While this approach would help maintain frictionless trade in these areas, critics of the plan believe it would see the UK as rule-takers from the EU with no say over their creation.
“No one should plan on a high-alignment deal…going through this House,” warned Baker.
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