David Davis tells Tories: Leadership contest could damage Brexit negotiations
3 min read
David Davis has warned Conservative MPs unhappy with Theresa May that any effort to replace her could damage the UK’s negotiating hand with the European Union.
The Brexit Secretary has been touted as a potential successor amid a flurry of speculation about Mrs May’s future since the Conservatives lost their overall majority in the recent general election.
The Mail on Sunday reported today that Conservative MP Sir Desmond Swayne had been applauded by Tory parliamentarians when he suggested Mr Davis lead the party.
Another idea floated in the newspapers has been a caretaker leadership team, with Chancellor Philip Hammond as prime minister and Mr Davis as his deputy.
But Mr Davis told his colleagues to shut down any talk of a “self-indulgent” contest.
Asked on the Andrew Marr Show whether it would be “catastrophic” for his chances at getting a good deal with Brussels for Tory MPs to try to force Mrs May out, he replied: “Yes.”
“Stop being so self-indulgent, get on with the day job,” he said to those Conservatives.
And he took a swipe at David Cameron, as he contrasted Mrs May’s government with her predecessors:
“There’s no essay crisis about this government; it’s very, very clear that she’s a good Prime Minister. That’s point number one. Point number two is I want a stable backdrop to this Brexit negotiation.”
International Development Secretary Priti Patel has also been mooted as a possible leadership contender in the future.
Asked about the rumours on ITV’s Peston on Sunday, Ms Patel said she was “focused on getting on with the job” but declined to rule out a future run.
‘PRETTY SURE’ OF BREXIT DEAL
Mr Davis, who is leading for the UK in the negotiations with the EU, said he was “pretty sure” that he could agree a free trade deal within the two-year window prescribed by Article 50.
He said “I’m pretty sure. I’m not 100% sure - it’s a negotiation. We can be sure there will be a deal. Whether it’s the deal I want which is the free trade agreement, a customs agreement and so on… I’m pretty sure but I’m not certain.”
He also signalled that the UK would be happy for a neutral oversight body to arbitrate on the rights of EU citizens living in Britain once the Brexit process has been completed.
The European Commission has said the European Court of Justice should oversee the implementation of any agreement that is reached on citizens’ rights – but Mr Davis appeared to rule that out.
He said: “When we’re doing all these deals on trade and other areas there will be arbitration arrangements – there won’t be the ECJ.
"But there will be a mutually agreed chairman and somebody nominated from both sides. [That] is the normal way, but there may be other ways too.
"And it may well be we have an arbitration arrangement over this - but it’s not going to be the European Court of Justice.”
Mr Davis also agreed with Mr Hammond that a transition period was needed beyond March 2019, but said it was “more likely” that such a system would be in place for less than two years rather than the four years hinted at by the Chancellor.
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