Davis Rails Against May's $51 Billion ‘Pig-in-a-Poke’ Brexit

(Bloomberg) -- Former Brexit Secretary David Davis said Prime Minister Theresa May is taking Britain toward an exit deal with the European Union that won’t pass Parliament because of a lack of guarantees on the U.K.’s future economic relationship with the bloc.

Davis, who quit the cabinet in July over the prime minister’s so-called “Chequers” plan to tie Britain to a common rulebook on goods with the EU after Brexit, said in an ITV interview that the bloc is offering Britain “no guarantees” on the future relationship.

Chequers “means we accept their rules, we accept their guidelines, we take their laws: even with that they’re not saying we’re going to get access to the single market,” Davis said on ITV’s “Peston” program, broadcast live on Twitter. “That is a 39 billion [pounds, $51 billion] pig in a poke. I can’t see Parliament voting that through, no matter which way you voted in the referendum.”

The sum of money is a reference to the future payments Britain has agreed to pay into EU coffers as part of its withdrawal agreement. Davis said once that money has been paid, there would be no incentive for the EU to relent to U.K. demands, and the country would be locked into the customs union, losing the main economic benefit of Brexit, the ability to negotiate free-trade deals with the rest of the world.

May faces a battle to get her Brexit vision approved by both her EU counterparts and by the U.K. Parliament. U.K. officials are locked in negotiations with their Brussels counterparts in an attempt to make progress on the thorny issue of how to keep the Irish border free from customs infrastructure after Brexit, and they aim to seal a deal next month.

Domestically, she needs to retain the support of her allies in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which opposes any new barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the U.K., while staving off rebellion by backbenchers in her own Conservative Party.

DUP leader Arlene Foster has described her red lines as “blood-red” amid signals the U.K. was preparing to offer concessions to the EU that would see extra regulatory checks between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain, though no tariffs or customs barriers. In a vote in Parliament on the government’s Agriculture Bill on Wednesday, the DUP’s 10 lawmakers noticeably didn’t vote with the Conservatives, although they didn’t vote with Labour either.

Tory Brexiteers in the European Research Group, which numbers 60 or more lawmakers, have signaled they’d vote against a Chequers-style deal, favoring instead a trade deal modeled on the one the EU struck with China. On the flipside, former Home Secretary Amber Rudd, a pro-European, has said 40 remainers would oppose a Canada-style deal.

May’s de-facto deputy, David Lidington said on the same program that if and when May secures a deal agreed by all EU governments, that would create a “different dynamic” in Parliament. Asked whether May’s priority was getting an orderly Brexit or keeping the party together, he replied: “The most important thing for us is doing what’s right for the country.”

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.