Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has told a tech event that he “hadn’t quite understood” the importance of the Dover-Calais crossing for UK trade.
According to the website Politico, Raab was speaking last night when he confirmed the choice of goods available to buy in the shops would be hit unless “frictionless trade” was maintained at the French border.
He is reported to have said: ‘I hadn’t quite understood the full extent of this, but if you look at the UK and look at how we trade in goods, we are particularly reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing.
“And that is one of the reasons why we have wanted to make sure we have a specific and very proximate relationship with the EU, to ensure frictionless trade at the border.
“I don’t think it is a question so much of the risk of major shortages, but I think probably the average consumer might not be aware of the full extent to which the choice of goods that we have in the stores are dependent on one or two very specific trade routes.’
Labour MP Jo Stevens, a champion of the anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain, said: “We finally have an admission of what we’ve known all along – that the Brexiteers hadn’t really thought through any of the impacts of leaving the EU. These comments are shocking.
“British jobs, supplies and services rely on key border crossings like the Dover strait and the fact that the Brexit Secretary is only just realising this is a serious cause for concern.
“There’s only one clear solution. We need a people’s vote on the final deal, with the option of staying in the EU and retaining our vital trade links.”
It comes as his predecessor in the role, David Davis, said the government had been “unwilling to take any risk” in testing the EU’s negotiating position except on the exit bill.
Leaving without a deal would mean some “hiccups in the first year,” Davis told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, but the UK would have “all the rights and controls over our own destiny”.
Davis said claims that there would be insulin and food shortages were “nonsense”.
“We are a big country, we can look after ourselves,” he insisted.
He also said the full government legal advice on Brexit must be published, saying: “What we must see is the complete legal advice, not a summary.”
Davis said MPs needed to know how the Irish backstop would work.
“Are we going to have to wait until the Irish Government says it’s OK to leave? If so, that’s not acceptable,” he said.
“Are we going to have to wait until it’s convenient for the [European] Commission to say when we leave? If so, it’s not acceptable.
“I suspect that they have not pinned down any of these issues and they need to be pinned down before Parliament votes.”