Tuesday

16th Jan 2018

Key UK ministers emphasise 'bright side' of Brexit

  • Johnson and other leading Tories see Brexit as an opportunity for Britian (Photo: UK in Japan FCO)

Key pro-Brexit UK cabinet members said Britain should look at its withdrawal from the EU as an opportunity and that the UK would be a more open country than as part of the bloc.

Trade minister Liam Fox, Brexit minister David Davis and foreign minister Boris Johnson, all speaking at the Conservative Party's conference on Tuesday (3 October) in Manchester, attempted to shake up their fellow Tories as Brexit talks are move at a slow pace without a sign of a breakthrough.

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The ministers gave their optimism-boosting speeches just as the European Parliament in Strasbourg adopted a resolution stating that Brexit negotiations have not reached "sufficient progress" to be able to move onto trade talks.

Earlier in the day MEPs said cabinet divisions are hampering the UK's Brexit negotiations.

Manfred Weber, the group leader of the largest group in the EP, the People's Party, even called for the sacking of Johnson, who has been seen as undermining prime minister Theresa May since she gave her Brexit strategy speech in Florence two weeks ago.

Johnson told the conference that the UK government is united behind "every syllable" of May's Florence speech on Brexit, trying to cool off criticism of him challenging May's leadership.

May said at the time that the UK is committed to honouring its commitments made as an EU member, and that Brexit would not require EU countries to pay more or receive less from the EU budget – a significant statement still awaiting detailed clarification by EU negotiators.

May has also asked for a transition period after Brexit that could last for two years. That means actual Brexit might only come in 2021, not on the date of withdrawal in 2019.

Johnson nevertheless sounded upbeat by Britain's European prospects.

"We can build a deep and special partnership through free trade [with Europe]," Johnson said.

"We will be no less European," Johnson said, adding: "We are one of the quintessential European nations."

Johnson called on party members to seize the opportunity of Brexit.

Not a 'plague of boils'

"It is time to stop treating the referendum result as though it were a plague of boils or a murrain on our cattle or an inexplicable aberration by 17.4m people. It is time to be bold, and to seize the opportunities and there is no country better-placed than Britain," he told cheering Tories.

Johnson said Britain has an chance to become truly global.

"After Brexit that is what our partners are going to get as this country is freed from endlessly trying to block things in Brussels committee rooms. Freed to stop being negative and to start being positive about what we believe in – including free trade," he said.

Brexit negotiator Davis also told the conference to "keep their eyes on the prize" that is offered by the UK leaving the bloc.

"An opportunity to make sure that all the decisions about the future of this country are taken by our parliament, our courts, our institutions," he said, describing Brexit.

"Decisions about how to spend our taxes - made here in Britain. Decisions about who comes into the country - made here in Britain. All our laws - made here in Britain," he added.

Davis said Brexit will give a chance for Britain to be more open to the world.

"Now that we are leaving the European Union, it allows us to be more international, not less," he said.

Trade minister Liam Fox told the audience Britain has already begun discussions "about the future relationship" with the United States, Australia and New Zealand, and have reached out to more than a dozen countries on trade.

A new round of Brexit talks will begin next Monday in Brussels.

Progress made in Brexit talks, but not enough

Fourth round of Brexit talks saw cooperative tone in a shift after May's speech, but there serious differences on financial commitments and EU court remained.

Barnier: UK risks undermining trust in Brexit talks

A day before UK PM Theresa May sets out her Brexit strategy in Florence, top EU negotiator Michel Barnier told lawmakers in Rome: there can be no transitional deal for the UK without a withdrawal agreement.

EU hopes for clarity on Brexit payments

May to give first major speech on Brexit since notifying EU that the UK was leaving. Negotiations have stalled, but she could revive them with a financial offer.

Brexit talks enter pre-summit round

Brexit talks resume on Monday, but too little progress on issues such as citizens' rights, mean EU leaders unlikely to launch trade negotiations this month.

Magazine

Brexit timeline - 'The clock is ticking'

'The clock is ticking' - a favourite phrase of EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier - has become a stark warning, as the UK government took nine months to initiate the Brexit process and even longer to clarify its positions.

Magazine

Michel Barnier: The UK's best friend in Brussels

The EU's chief Brexit negotiator is an atypical French politician, with a love for mountains and Europe. He has been steering Brexit talks with a steady hand, and a deal could catapult him to the higher echelons of EU politics.

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