Mark Francois says wrecking car industry after no-deal Brexit would ‘at least be our choice’

Mark Francois in debate on Sky News with Adam Boulton. Photograph: Sky.

Mark Francois in debate on Sky News with Adam Boulton. Photograph: Sky. - Credit: Archant

Tory Brexiteer Mark Francois debate a former international trade negotiator on television and tried to put a positive on no-deal Brexit tariffs hitting the car industry by saying 'at least it would be our choice'.

The Conservative MP for Rayleigh and Wickford was in debate with David Henig on Sky News as they both discussed the impact of a no-deal Brexit on the UK economy.

Henig started the interview by explaining what exactly crashing out of the EU would mean. He told presenter Adam Boulton: "No deal equals trade barriers, tariffs on UK goods into the EU, technical barriers, inspections, loss of privileges to provide services across the EU. That all happens in the event of no deal. No deal is no deal, there is no mystery WTO provision that allows you to get out of the mess."

He warned that it meant high tariffs for the car industry and agriculture including a number of foods, and warned if we did set all of our tariffs at zero it would mean "other countries will say they won't we don't need a trade deal with you".

And he added the impact on the car industry under these trading conditions could be devastating.

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Henig said: "For our car producers - 122,000 work manufacturing cars and automotive equipment - they are going to be hit. A huge percentage of those will go overseas."

But rather than attempt to dispute what the expert had to say, Francois claimed that "the fundamental point is if they're going to be hit, at least it would be our choice."

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Somewhat surprised by his claim, Adam Boulton drily responded: "Yes I know but if it's your choice to blow your head off, you don't take it, at least not very often."

"As a matter of fact Adam, I am not blowing my head off today, nor am I planning to," responded Francois, as the presenter said "yes but we're talking about November 1st."ois

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As the pair discussed the technicalities, the conversation moved on to how Boris Johnson would differ to Theresa May in dealing with Brexit.

Francois insisted "what would be fundamentally different would be we would have a prime minister who finally stood up for us."

"He wouldn't - for instance - give the EU £39 billion for nothing in return. Any businessmen would tell you that is a ludicrous way to negotiate, but that's how we did."

But the former trade negotiator said it was "more than belief in Britain".

He said: "The point of the negotiation, and I'm not going directly into the money, is more than belief in Britain. We had many war generals with belief in their soldiers, but it didn't go particularly well because they didn't think about what it was that was going to deliver a result here.

"It's more than belief, we need to be thinking if we want a deal with the EU what the EU is looking to get and what we are looking to get. I don't think we know the answers either of those, I'm not sure we've heard the answer to either of them."

As Francois continued to refer to "a comprehensive free trade deal", Henig was quick to point out "that is not an end state."

He said: "That is a tool of trade. It does not even necessarily mean tariff-free trade, it might mean a reduction in tariffs. We have not said what the UK wants. And that is what we need to hear from your candidate and the other candidate what it is we want."

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