Dominic Raab under fire after admitting he 'hadn't understood' importance of Calais trade route
Dominic Raab has provoked fury after admitting he did not fully understand the importance of the trade route between Dover and Calais.
In a surprising admission, the Brexit Secretary said he had not realised how essential it was in getting food and medicine into the UK.
Speaking at a technology conference, Mr Raab also admitted that the range of goods in British shops could be scaled back if a frictionless trade deal with the EU is not struck in time for Brexit.
He said: "We want a bespoke arrangement that recognises the peculiar, frankly, geographic economic entity that is the United Kingdom.
"We are, and I hadn’t quite understood the full extent of this, but if you look at the UK and how we trade in goods, we are particularly reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing, and that is one of the reasons why, and there has been a lot of controversy on this, that is one of the reasons why we’ve wanted to make sure we have a specific and very proximate relationship with the EU to ensure frictionless trade at the border.
"Particularly, for just in time manufacturing goods whether it is pharmaceutical goods or perishable goods like food. I don’t think it’s the question so much of the risk of major shortages but I think the average consumer might not be aware of the full extent to which the choice of goods we have in the stores are dependent on one or two very specific trade routes."
MPs and pro-EU campaigners said his comments were proof the Government cannot be trusted to handle Brexit.
Labour’s Shadow Brexit Minister Jenny Chapman said: "How are we meant to trust this government to deliver a good deal for this country when we have a Brexit Secretary who doesn’t even understand the very basics of Brexit?"
Jo Stevens, a Labour MP and supporter of the Best for Britain campaign, 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.
"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."
Tony Blair’s former communications chief, Alistair Campbell, who has been a vocal critic of Brexit, said: “A current Brexit Secretary admitting he didn’t know much about the issues. And his predecessor proving it live on radio. Total sh*tshow past present and future.”
And Labour MP Stephen Doughty, who backs the campaign for a second referendum on Brexit, added: “It’s becoming clearer by the day that the UK is headed for a miserable outcome from these talks.
“Brexit has turned into a mess that nobody voted for and it’s only going to get worse."
Meanwhile, Remain-backing Conservative MP Nicky Morgan tweeted out the remarks with the hashtag “enough said”.
The remarks comes as Mr Raab’s predecessor David Davis, who quit the Cabinet in protest at the Chequers plan for Brexit drawn up by Theresa May, claimed the UK might face some “bumps in the road” if it left the EU without a deal, but argued that people should not be “terrified” at the prospect.
He told the Radio 4 Today programme: “we would leave and there would be some hiccups in the first year, no doubt”.
He added: “We are a big country - we can look after ourselves and we will look after ourselves very well indeed once we are properly out of the European Union,” he said.