David Davis accuses Number 10 of exaggerating Northern Ireland Brexit border row
The Northern Ireland border problem has been "heavily overemphasised" in the row over Brexit, former cabinet minister David Davis has said.
The former Brexit secretary - who quit over Theresa May's Chequers plan to leave the European Union - batted away concerns over the Northern Irish border, saying it was a “straightforward” problem to deal with if the government was willing to put the “political will” behind it.
A deal over the border on the island of Ireland has plagued Theresa May, who has vowed that there will be no circumstances under which she will accept a hard border between the Republic and Northern Ireland after Brexit.
But, speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, the former cabinet minister said that the issue had been 'heavily overemphasised" in the talks so far.
"The Northern Ireland border is a border already," he said.
"It's got a VAT border, its got an excise border, its got a security border, and it works perfectly well with careful cooperation between both sides.
"The only thing that will be added if we got a tariff-free agreement, which is what we are after, then the only thing that would be added would be rules of origin of goods coming into Northern Ireland that might go in to the South."
He added: "We can control that. There are only six ports in Northern Ireland. This is a much more straightforward issue to deal with if we choose to. If we put the political will behind it.
The former cabinet heavyweight meanwhile launched a fresh broadside at the Prime Minister’s Chequers agreement, saying it was "almost worse" than remaining as a member of the European Union.
"In my view, the Chequers proposal - and it is a proposal, we shouldn’t call it the Chequers deal, it’s the Chequers proposal - is actually almost worse than being in," he said.
"We will be under the rule of the European Union, in respect to all of our manufactured goods and agrofoods. That's a very serious concession. What about take back control? That doesn’t work.
"It leaves us in the position where they dictate our future and rules without us having a say at all. It’s a worse deal."
But the Prime Minister today defended the plan, insisting that she would "not be pushed into accepting compromises on the Chequers proposals that are not in our national interest".
Mr Davis said Mrs May's wording was an "open sesame" for the EU to push for further concession from the UK.
"The other argument I made at this Chequers cabinet meeting is that this won’t be the last step. They will not accept this."
He added: "That is an incredible open sesame. You are not going to come to the House of Commons and say, ‘oh I agreed this but that wasn’t in the national interest’, are you?"
It was reported on Sunday that Mrs May's former elections adviser Sir Lynton Crosby has teamed up with Tory Brexiteers in a bid to kill off Mrs May's Chequers plan, with Eurosceptics set to present an alternative on the eve of the Conservative Party conference later this month.