No “self-respecting democracy” would accept the terms for Britain’s future relations with the EU set out in Theresa May’s Chequers plan, former Brexit secretary David Davis has said.
In a speech to German business chiefs in Munich, Mr Davis branded the Chequers plan “a non-starter” that was “in no-one’s interests” and would be worse than no deal.
He rejected as unacceptable her plans for a free trade area for goods under a common rulebook and dismissed her other key proposal for a “facilitated customs arrangement” as “clunky and impractical”.
Mr Davis warned the EU’s demands for further concessions would put Britain on the path for a final deal, which is “likely to look an awful lot like membership”.
Even if it were accepted by the EU and MPs in Westminster, the adoption of Mrs May’s blueprint would fuel public resentment and distrust in politicians and feed the rise in populist politics across Europe, he said.
Instead, the UK should ditch the Chequers model and instead pursue a Canada-style free trade agreement based on mutual recognition of regulations and standards, with each side free to diverge as it wishes.
Mr Davis warned Mrs May’s proposal of a “common rulebook” for goods would put the UK in the position of having to obey regulations drawn up in Brussels.
“For a nation that is seeking its independence and endeavouring to chart its own path in the world, how can this possibly be acceptable?” he asked.
“For the fifth largest economy in the world, leading the way on innovation, we cannot be governed by a body that we have no control over. It should not even be contemplated.
“We should be discussing these regulations as friends and collaborators by all means. But we cannot simply accept them as subordinate rule takers. No self-respecting democracy could.”
The PM’s proposal for Britain to collect customs levies on behalf of the EU was “just as clunky and impractical as it sounds”, he said.
And he warned: “There is widespread opposition to Chequers as it stands, let alone further concessions. It goes beyond the Prime Minister’s red lines and it is seen as unworkable by the EU.
“But most importantly, the British people will not accept it.
“But if a deal like this is accepted by both sides, resentment among the British people would swiftly return, distrust in politicians would deepen and it would feed the electoral fortunes of European populist parties. Chequers, then, is in no-one’s interests.
“The EU is often correctly described as having a democratic deficit. But Chequers is devoid of democracy altogether.
“A bad deal really is worse than no deal.”