By Amy Naughton-Rumbo
Brexit is the big issue at the Conservative Party’s annual conference, so you would be forgiven for assuming, just days away from the final deadline for Britain to agree its departure deal, that the Brexit secretary’s speech would be a highlight. However, perhaps reflecting the deadlock in negotiations, he was left, figuratively, rather speechless.
Speaking during the second day of his Party’s annual conference, the Brexit Minister Dominic Raab was adamant on two points: firstly, that no deal is better than a bad deal, and secondly, that there are “limits” to the UK’s willingness to compromise. He characterised the UK’s position as being “reasonable, perhaps too reasonable” contrasting this with the EU’s approach at Salzburg, which he described as consisting of “jibes from senior leaders.”
Raab concluded that “if the only offer from the EU threatens the integrity of our union, then we will be left with no choice but to leave without a deal,” adding that Britain will “not be locked in via the back door of the European Economic Area (EEA) and customs union.”
While admitting that a no deal scenario would involve risks and short-term disruptions, Raab claimed the Government would deal with these in a ‘calm and sensible manner’ and that there would, without doubt, be a de facto Brexit come March 2019.
Raab also sought to end speculation about a second referendum, by criticising a small, but influential group of senior politicians for attempting to put a stop to Brexit: “respecting the result is the essence of our democracy”, he argued.
Of course, no speech by the Brexit Minister would have been complete without an attack on Labour, which Raab carried out, firstly by accusing Labour of trying to open the door to reversing Brexit, and second, through an emotive, and well- received recount of his family’s history with antisemitism, linking this back to antisemitism within Labour. Finally, Raab told us today that, if all else fails, blame ‘the establishment’ – even if you’re a sitting Cabinet Minister.
Overall, Raab’s speech was high on rhetoric but light on content, he used his speech to attack the opposition, call for the Conservative Party to rally around its leadership and inspire hope around a vision for the UK’s future outside the EU, the details of which we are still waiting for with bated breath.