By Press Association Political Staff
France could deliberately adopt a “go-slow” approach at Calais if there is no Brexit deal, Dominic Raab has claimed.
The Brexit Secretary also said he is confident the authorities in Ireland are “well aware” of the implications of no deal after Tory MP Philip Hollobone warned that Dublin would be hardest hit in trade terms if the French “start mucking about” with Calais.
And Mr Raab warned MPs on all sides against seeking to “wreck” any deal secured by Theresa May during a punchy Brexit questions session, which also saw Labour label the no-deal preparations as “bluff” and the Government accused of “Mussolini politics” by Labour backbencher Barry Sheerman.
Speaking in the Commons, SNP Peter Grant highlighted National Audit Office warnings over no-deal Brexit preparations and told Mr Raab: “That’s on top of the 80,000 Scottish jobs and £2,300 out the pockets of every Scottish household and 9% hit to our economy that no-deal Brexit is likely to bring.
“Is the Secretary of State seriously telling us that it’s possible for him and the Prime Minister to bring back a bad deal that is worse than that?”
Mr Raab replied: “He’s right to point to the risks of no deal but the point is to have the planning and preparations in place to make sure we can avoid or mitigate those risks.
“In addition to the remarks I made earlier, there’s £8 million of funding announced for customs intermediaries.
“We also need to prepare for the worst-case scenario where the authorities at Calais are deliberately directing a go-slow approach by supporting a diversion of the flow to more amenable ports in other countries.”
Brexit-backing Mr Hollobone (Kettering) asked: “Has he made the Republic of Ireland aware that if the French start mucking about with Calais and a go-slow in the event of a no deal, the biggest impact would not be on UK trade, it will be on trade with the Republic of Ireland that passes through this country?”
Mr Raab replied: “I’m confident the authorities in Dublin are well aware of the implications of no deal.
“What we want to do – and what all of us on all sides, including the EU, want to do – is to make sure we lock horns, close outstanding issues and seal the good deal that will serve everyone’s interests.”
Mr Raab also prompted groans from the opposition benches by claiming Labour will be to blame for no deal if its MPs vote against any agreement secured by the Prime Minister.
Tory former minister Sir Patrick McLoughlin asked: “Can he be absolutely sure that should this House reject a deal brought back by the Government we will still leave the EU on March 29 and those who voted against that deal will be responsible for no deal?”
Mr Raab said: “He raises, responsibly and assiduously, the stark reality of those who would seek to wreck that deal, as the Labour Party leadership has suggested, come what may.
“Every member in this House will have a choice to make between the good deal we’re confident we will be bringing back and the alternatives.”
Later, Mr Sheerman (Huddersfield) voiced his support for a second referendum – also referred to as a “people’s vote” – but reacted angrily and shouted “Mussolini politics” as Brexit Minister Suella Braverman replied.
She said: “Looking after the future of this nation means respecting the democratic voice of this nation, and, yes, 700,000 people marched on Saturday, but 17.4 million people voted to leave.
“And we don’t simply ignore their voices just because we don’t like what they said.”
She also told Mr Sheerman to “take a long hard look in the mirror and ask himself if he can really, truly call himself a democrat”.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer reeled off a list of legislation, new agreements and measures he said would be required in the next 22 weeks to prepare for no Brexit deal.
He said: “The truth is it’s already too late to plan for no deal – this is bluff, not planning. Why wasn’t this legislation introduced months ago?”
Mr Raab said a “variety” of legislation has been put in place, adding: “The irresponsible thing to do is the position of the shadow chancellor (John McDonnell), who said he would make no financial provision for no deal.”