Britain will leave the European Union “in fact, not just in name”, Brexit minister Dominic Raab will say on Monday, warning that London’s “willingness to compromise is not without limits” and leaving without a deal is very much an option.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has adopted a new strident tone in its dealings with the EU, angered after what some saw as an ambush in Austria last month when several of the bloc’s leaders criticised some of her Brexit proposals.
But ministers are also keen to use the governing Conservative Party’s annual conference in the central English city of Birmingham to try to win over Brexit supporters who fear May is leading Britain towards leaving the EU in name only.
“My approach to Brexit is pragmatic, not dogmatic. Our proposals would deliver a historic agreement that provides a roadmap out of the EU and a final deal that will be good for the whole country,” Raab will say, according to excerpts of his speech.
“But our willingness to compromise is not without limits. We are leaving the European Union in fact, not just in name.”
He will say the government will fight any attempt to try to keep Britain too closely in the EU’s sphere or to try to split the United Kingdom by forcing the British province of Northern Ireland to adopt a different set of customs rules.
Just six months before Britain is due to leave the EU in the country’s biggest shift in foreign and trade policy in more than 40 years, the debate over how to leave the bloc is still raging in the centre-right Conservative Party, and even in government.
With no agreement on the divorce and continued wrangling over Britain’s future relationship with the EU, the probability of a so-called “no deal Brexit” has risen – something that Raab and other ministers said should not be feared.
The main opposition Labour Party accused Raab of being “in denial” over May’s Chequers plan, named after her country residence where an agreement was hashed out with her ministers in July.
“The Chequers’ proposals have been rejected by his own party and by the EU. Chequers cannot command support at Conservative Conference, let alone in Parliament or across the country,” said Paul Blomfield, a Brexit spokesman for Labour.
But Raab said he was pursuing a deal that “delivers on the referendum, because that’s our democratic duty”.
“If we can’t obtain a deal that secures that objective … then we will be left with no choice but to leave without a deal.”