David Davis has insisted that he had no intention of “undermining” the Prime Minister when he resigned as Brexit secretary in the early hours of Monday morning.
He said that he argued against Theresa May’s soft Brexit proposals at Chequers last week, some of his fellow Brexiteer Tories - although he didn’t name who - had tried to talk him out of resigning.
“[I resigned] because the Prime Minister’s policy was to make a series of concessions to the European Union. What we call the common rule book, all our manufacturing, business, will be on a common rule book written by the EU,” he told Julia Hartley-Brewer.
“Although she said Parliament will have the vote on each law, in truth, if they say no, firstly let’s say they say no for regulations on cars. All the cars start being inspected at the border, so that so-called frictionless border evaporates.
“In some cases it could trigger the Northern Irish fallback option, with Northern Ireland effectively being in the single market. Well, we can’t have that; it’s a great sword of Damocles.”
‘I couldn’t do a good job’
Theresa May talks to ministers at the Chequers meeting last week
He said that he wouldn’t be able to “do a very good job” at delivering the proposal as he “didn’t believe” in it.
“First off, that policy proposal I think is flawed,” he said.
“Secondly there’s a proposal to have a customs arrangement where we collect the EU’s taxes, will if that happens, they’ll insist the European Court of Justice oversees it.
“Thirdly, what’s the typical tactic of the European Union? Take what you offer and ask for more. At some point you have to have an argument, have a conflict, that’s very scary and a high pressure point but it needs to happen.”
Davis added that it wasn’t the first time he had disagreed with May over how to deliver Brexit.
“When you have an argument in Cabinet, the majority always wins, the Prime Minister always wins is the British rules.
“There have been plenty of times, as my letter said, over the course of the last year or so, in which I have had different views in various elements of the policy.”
Parliament’s rights ‘illusory’
He said he took the weekend to think about resigning and talk it over with his wife, because “this isn’t just filling in a box on a football pools coupon, to pick an old analogy. This is a big decision, as you see by the effect of it this morning.”
He reiterated that concerns over Northern Ireland were a factor in his resignation.
“My view is that parliament’s rights there are quite illusory,” he said.
“If parliament comes up with a, let’s say, a decision on agricultural business, it may suddenly find itself with Northern Ireland in a completely separate position, and that union matters to us. That sort of sword of Damocles is too dangerous for this arrangement.”
Davis would not run for Conservative leadership
Dominic Raab leaving the Department for Exiting The European Union shortly after being appointed Brexit secretary
Davis said “about half a dozen” people at the Chequers meeting “shared similar views” but did not divulge who or what was said.
Boris Johnson reportedly described the Prime Minister’s plans as “polishing a turd” at Chequers, but Davis laughed off suggestions from Ms Hartley-Brewer that other ministers might have thought similarly, saying: “I don’t think anybody actually used that word”.
He also said he would not be running for leadership of the Conservative party in the event of May facing a vote of no confidence.
She will face the 1922 Committee on Monday evening (July 9) and could face a vote if 48 MPs demand it.
Despite his resignation, Davis said he would urge his colleagues to “support the Prime Minister”.
“I don’t agree with the strategy but she’s got to be supported in trying to deliver that strategy as best she can. I hope she’s right and I’m wrong to be honest,” he said. “I don’t want this to be any part of undermining the Prime Minister.”
Colleagues said ‘don’t do it’
Pressed on whether he thought any of his hard Brexiteer colleagues would follow his example and resign, he said: “I don’t know, I didn’t ask them. That’s not my business.”
He said that he spoke to some of them at the weekend to tell them his plans, and “they all said ‘don’t do it’.”
Ms Hartley-Brewer suggested that the UK was not prepared for a no-deal Brexit, which could happen if Brussels rejects the latest proposal.
“Oh, yes we are,” responded Davis. “I briefed the cabinet on it over the weekend. There’s a lot of preparation been going on, 300 different projects, but we haven’t made it public.
“Some of it’s been made public, the preparation for HGV licenses, there’s a bill on that, people didn’t notice that.
“There’s a sanctions bill, a whole series of bills coming out preparing for no-deal if it happens. Over the summer, you will see a lot of announcements coming out.”
Davis admitted he had lost his ministerial car and would take a salary drop as a result of his resignation.
“It’s got downsides and consequences,” he said.
“It’s more than just the issue of salary and car. I care about the task, this is one of the most important tasks in current times for Britain and it’s a big wrench for me to give it up, but it was necessary, because I couldn’t deliver this with the enthusiasm and commitment that’s needed to deliver Brexit properly.”
Dominic Raab has been appointed the new Brexit secretary.
Watch the full conversation between Ms Hartley-Brewer and Davis above.