Douglas Carswell

05 APR 2017

Hilary isn't helping

I'm confident that Britain will reach a trade deal with the EU. There is good will to strike one in Europe. But we could do with more good will from the Brexit Select Committee.

Madrid aside, the response to Article 50 in European capitals has been constructive. The EU Ambassadors I've spoken to are clear their governments want a deal that works for both sides.

But, to get a good deal, Theresa May has to be prepared to walk away. If EU negotiators think she will take anything – like David Cameron – they will offer nothing.

The good news is she can walk away. It is workable for the UK to trade with the EU on WTO terms. Facilitating trade is what the WTO is for.

The fact that WTO terms are a viable alternative makes a good trade deal more likely, not less. But that seems to have escaped the Chairman of the Brexit Select Committee, Hilary Benn. His Committee's latest report – rejected by over a third of its own members – dismisses the principle that no deal is better than a bad deal as 'unsubstantiated'.

It's actually self-evident. We had a referendum on it. The majority decided that EU membership is a bad deal – with all the obligations it entails. They chose an end to the status quo – even if that meant a clean break.

The irony of Benn's approach is that it makes no deal more likely. Were EU leaders to start the negotiation under the illusion that the PM isn't prepared to walk away without a deal, she would be left with no choice but to do so.

Select Committees aren't for political partisanship. They exist to help ensure good government. Benn should follow the lead of EU governments – and stop refighting the referendum.

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