Brexit minister (10th July): PM has promised to put border controls ahead of economy in negotiations

The new Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, David Davis, has already helpfully set out his Brexit negotiating positions in a speech to the Institute of Chartered Engineers in March (carried in full on his website). He has also more recently written a detailed article on the subject on Conservative Home.

David Davis seems to be in reasonable agreement with his new boss on triggering Article 50. Theresa May said at the launch of her leadership bid:

And there should be no decision to invoke Article 50 until the British negotiating strategy is agreed and clear, which means Article 50 should not be invoked before the end of this year.

David Davis said in his Conservative Home article:

The negotiating strategy has to be properly designed, and there is some serious consultation to be done first. Constitutional propriety requires us to consult with the Scots, Welsh, and Northern Irish governments first, and common sense implies that we should consult with stakeholders like the City, CBI, TUC, small business bodies, the NFU, universities and research foundations and the like. None of them should have any sort of veto, but we should try to accommodate their concerns so long as it does not compromise the main aim. This whole process should be completed to allow triggering of Article 50 before or by the beginning of next year.

David Davis has provided a very helpful table on his website summarizing his negotiating positions. Here it is:


David Davis wants “tarriff-free access” to the single market while ending free movement of people for the UK:

This leaves the question of Single Market access. The ideal outcome, (and in my view the most likely, after a lot of wrangling) is continued tariff-free access. Once the European nations realise that we are not going to budge on control of our borders, they will want to talk, in their own interest. There may be some complexities about rules of origin and narrowly-based regulatory compliance for exports into the EU, but that is all manageable.

Certainly from his speech and article, it certainly looks like Mr Davis has done his homework and is a tough-talker.

I wish him the best of British luck. He’ll need it.

What I find very worrying indeed is that he seems to put ‘proper control’ our borders ahead of economic prosperity and thinks that the new PM agrees with him on that:

That could lead us to sacrificing economic well-being in order to satisfy some odd, nebulous and unachievable concept of ‘controlling our borders’. Controlling our borders is important, especially given some public desire for it, but it should not completely over-ride economic considerations. The two priorities should be carefully balanced.

However, if you read Theresa May’s leadership announcement speech, she was actually a little more nuanced in her view on this subject:

…as we conduct our negotiations, it must be a priority to allow British companies to trade with the single market in goods and services – but also to regain more control of the numbers of people who come here from Europe.

‘Regaining more control of the numbers’ doesn’t necessarily suggest putting economic prosperity ahead of border control.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist and member of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

Read more by or more about or .
This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Eddie Sammon 14th Jul '16 - 12:30pm

    We might be able to get immigration controls plus single market access. Some people in Brussels try to call this “Europe à la carte”, which they say is a red line, but there is a middle way between à la carte and the same meal for everyone! We need Europe, the vegetarian option!

    Three freedoms out of four is fine because they work both ways. A fairly liberal visa regime is important though.

  • It’s an incoherent wish-list which smacks of wanting to both have one’s cake and eat it as well.

  • Needs to be pointed out that control of our borders does not equal reduced immigration. I’m honestly starting to wonder if the ‘new’ Conservative party is actually prepared to sacrifice some of the city for other ends. Remarkable if true.

  • David – The government does seem to be accepting we won’t remain part of the single market. It’s about how much access we get.

  • David Allen 14th Jul '16 - 1:27pm

    So there we have it. Our new super-negotiator has told the other side about everything that is in his hand, up front. He wants, as David-1 says, to have his cake and eat it. He wants a far better deal than either Norway or Switzerland get, with nil tariffs alongside a ban on free movement of people, and nil payments into the EU budget. What’s more, he helpfully tells the other side that he thinks they’ll pretty much concede on everything he asks for.

    Well, if the EU negotiators didn’t start off feeling determined to screw the Brits, they’ll sure be feeling that way when they read Davis’s website!

  • Matt (Bristol) 14th Jul '16 - 2:07pm

    I kind of wish we could stop using the jolly tabloid play on words of ‘brexit’.

    Is it unthinkable that we could we call it what it is – a secession?

  • Martin Land 14th Jul '16 - 3:09pm

    The problem the Tories are not facing up to is immigration from outside the EU. This is the real problem, if there is one. Ending freedom of movement will change little as retirees no longer moving to Spain and France combined with many forced to return thanks to a lack of medical cover means that net immigration might not change for many, many years. The other consequence is a potentially massive housing crisis as returning pensioners search for property and UK based pensioners stay firmly in their homes. Be interested to hear all those Tory members squeel when their retirement plans crumble into dust.

  • Mass immigration on the scale we’ve seen it is recent. Even for much of the 1990s it was bellow 20000. The problem is we’ve become to reliant on it as a short term fix for skills gaps and it is also an industry in itself. Also there’s a lot of people studying in Britain who really should not be included in the immigration figures at all.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '16 - 8:00pm

    The Immigration Minister who fell in the 2001 general election said that improved transport links, particularly by air were part of the reason for increased arrivals.

  • Mick Taylor 14th Jul '16 - 8:43pm

    Mr David has not done his homework.
    He has been suggesting that individual EU countries will wish to conclude trade deals with the UK. They might wish, but they can’t do, because trade treaties are an EU competence. So if individual countries want to keep on trading with the UK, they will have to do it though the EU and the UK can only negotiate with the EU on trade, not its individual members. So nil points there Mr Davis.
    Also the comparison with Turkey is not relevant because Turkey is not in the same position as either Norway or Switzerland. Both Norway and Switzerland have to accept free movement as part of their deal with the EU and they have to pay for trade access, which doesn’t include food.
    Mr Davis would have been better advised to consult his civil servants about how the EU works rather than rely on the false information bandied about by leave campaigners. He really is a victim of leave propaganda and that bodes ill for any negotiations he may have with the EU.
    Funnily enough he may discover when he does get down to negotiations [and there’s much doubt that the EU will do so before Article 50 in invoked] that the best deal he could get is the one the UK has now. What will he do then?

  • You can dismiss anything and everything written before today. It just gives you a clue as to their starting pitch for the referendum vote, not what they really believe now is a practical reality or the constraints May has imposed on them, which likely includes preventing Scottish independence. May will not want her historical legacy to be the PM that lost Scotland and had to resign in disgrace. Ironic that the SNP might save the whole of the UK isn’t it.

  • This ‘supine think’, attitude to all things *EU*, is the very reason you get blindsided time and again. The EU Commission proved in stark terms in their negotiations with David Cameron that they are totally intransigent in terms of reforming. In short – This EU ‘machine’, is NOT reform-able.
    Fortunately, David Davis understands that the EU Commission is not the final word on the matter. He does not even need to hide the fact that the UK is willing to backstop its European trade using WTO rules, whilst as he puts it “…in the improbable event of the EU taking a dog in the manger attitude…”, we can ” include 10 per cent levies on [German ?], car exports”
    As we speak, German car manufacturers will have been banging on Merkel’s door in panic mode, telling her in no uncertain terms that she must come down hard on the EU Commission’s rank stupidity.
    Creating a mutually beneficial trade agreement with German industry first,.. is the key to resolving our post Brexit trade terms with *all of Europe*. Why?,.. because in the real,.. ‘food chain of power’,.. the EU Commission will do what Merkel tells them,.. and Merkel, will in turn, do what German industry tells her.?
    David Davis cares not a jot, what the EU Commission thinks or wants, because he understands one simple fact,.. the EU is not Europe.?

  • Richard Underhill 15th Jul '16 - 3:26pm

    Please also see Phillip Collins in The Times 15/7/16 page 27, column five.
    “… under the current rules it is illegal to enter trade negotiations until the two-year process of Article 50 had finished… Mr. Davis simply assumes the EU will change the rules for his benefit. There is no reason to assume it will.”

  • John Mitchell 15th Jul '16 - 4:39pm

    I like David Davis and thought that his appointment to run a department that will lead Britain’s exit from the European Union was a good one by the new Prime Minister.

    However, I am already concerned that it seems that Davis wants to follow the Canadian trade model. By this, I mean that Davis wants to incorporate a CETA style trade deal which has recently been ratified between Canada and the European Union.

    As some did warn, potential trade deals outside of the EU could be just as bad or corporatist as if the UK had voted to stay in it. Time will tell, although I do have a degree of confidence in Davis, even if I do not necessarily agree with his strategy or the general direction he appears to be wanting to emulate.

    Wanting to replicate TTIP or CETA outside of the European Union would be a disaster. This would also pose serious questions as to what the UK would be achieving (sovereignty wise) from leaving the EU, if significant concessions have to be made in future trade deals which implement an investor state dispute mechanism or a similar clause .

  • But, but it isn’t about immigration cry the leavers posting on here, of cause it isn’t for you, but it is for the Tories new target audience, so buckle up and enjoy the ride. Free market gone, freedom of movement gone and health cover gone. I do hope you haven’t brought property abroad.

  • Mark Goodrich 16th Jul '16 - 10:10am

    As David Allen writes above, this is just ludicrous. He wants a better deal than Norway and Switzerland and the says that he expects to get it. Why on earth does he think the EU will give us something which it has consistently refused to those countries? It is not as if we will be benefiting from lots of goodwill. Will he resign if it can’t deliver the “probable” result of negotiations?

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Ruth Bright
    I liked what Daisy Cooper did about the D-Day/Rishi controversy. Reading from her Grandpa's war diary was high risk because it is so easy to sound mawkish - but...
  • Jenny Barnes
    "Every member will have had many communications by now asking them to prioritise their efforts in a specific seat." No, I haven't had any, let alone many....
  • nvelope2003
    Whatever the reason for the move to the right in some states maybe the British have seen where this leads and will reverse the trend here. One can but hope....
  • expats
    The Conservative manifesto launch was far more like the funeral for an unpopular corpse than a christening... Little about past achievements much on 'future sna...
  • Alex Macfie
    @Simon R: Comments like these are populist right-wing tropes: "The liberal left has become a shill for a failed EU establishment…" ...