Cabinet still can't agree over Chequers plan
PUBLISHED: 10:15 22 July 2018 | UPDATED: 10:15 22 July 2018
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New Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has admitted the cabinet remains divided over the prime minister's Chequers plan.
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit chief David Davis walked out of government in response to the plan which outlines the UK’s negotiating strategy with the European Union.
Now Raab has admitted he is still trying to persuade all members of the cabinet that Theresa May’s Chequers agreement is “the best plan to get the best deal”.
He has also revealed that the UK could refuse to pay the £39 billion divorce bill – a comment likely to get Brussels bristling ahead of the latest talks this week.
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, Raab suggested the divorce bill could be used as leverage in the talks with Brussels.
He said: “I want to make sure we can persuade everyone - grassroots, voters, parliamentary party and ministers, including in the Cabinet - that we’ve got the best deal and the best plan to get the best deal.”
He added: “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.
“So, I think we do need to make sure that there’s some conditionality between the two.”
Pressed on whether he would put such a provision into legislation, Raab said: “Certainly it needs to go into the arrangements we have at international level with our EU partners. We need to make it clear that the two are linked.”
The comments appeared at odds with Chancellor Philip Hammond, who said of the divorce payment last December: “I find it inconceivable that we as a nation would be walking away from an obligation that we recognised as an obligation.
“That is not a credible scenario. That is not the kind of country we are. Frankly, it would not make us a credible partner for future international agreements.”
Raab added that critics were mistaken to think May would not walk away without a deal if she had to.
“They’re wrong. No bluffing,” he said.
“The ball is now in the EU’s court, and don’t get me wrong, there will be plenty more negotiations, I’ve made that clear, but if they show us the same level of ambition, energy, pragmatism, this deal gets done in 12 weeks.”