Penny Mordaunt reiterated the Government’s position that the UK must honour the 2016 referendum result and leave the EU. She argues that Brussels must now accept the reality of the situation and show more willingness to compromise. She blames prior EU intransigence and an unwillingness to reform as the main reasons for the UK public voting to leave three years ago.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, the MP for Portsmouth North said: ”We’re leaving because the EU would not listen and would not reform.
“Yes, it’s difficult and it has risks. Yes, other countries’ leaders gave up on delivering on the mandate of their people.
“But we won’t. We will honour the vote.”
She goes on to say that: “The Commission must now grasp the reality of the situation. Brexit is going to happen.
“Could it repeat the intransigence of the last four years by dismissing the Prime Minister’s proposals?
“Sadly, yes. If they do, it only vindicates our decision to leave. It won’t stop Brexit.”
A major sticking point in negotiations is the Prime Minister’s insistence that Northern Ireland exits the EU customs Union along with the rest of Britain.
EU officials argue that this is unacceptable as it will necessitate the reintroduction of a hard border with customs checks and controls, something that potentially imperils the Good Friday peace agreement.
The former Secretary of State for Defence argues that a deal will never be reached if Northern Ireland is not allowed to leave the Customs Union, and that it is totally unreasonable to expect the UK to split its territory.
While acknowledging that there would need to be some customs checks, no physical infrastructure would be required.
She writes: “Customs declarations can be filled out electronically. Customs checks will be intelligence-led and targeted, and typically occur in less than 1 per cent of transactions.
Leo Varadkar and Jean Claude-Juncker
“These fiscal checks can take place at companies’ premises. There is no need for additional infrastructure of any kind.”
Ms Mordaunt makes the further point that technology will enable less intrusive checks and that a world-class trusted trader scheme could be up and running in 10-12 months, enabling the free-flowing movement of goods across the border.
She concludes by challenging the EU to rise to the occasion and to not let the opportunity for a deal to slip away.
She writes: “Six years ago the British people asked for reform. That opportunity was squandered. That inflexibility the provenance of the referendum result.
“Today we ask for a good Brexit for all. The opportunity must be seized. This time, flexibility must be shown.”
The Prime Minister continued his search for a deal, by meeting his Irish counterpart, Leo Varadkar on Thursday for discussions at a country house in the Wirral in northwest England.
Talks lasted three hours as both leaders tried to find a way through the current Brexit impasse in talks between the EU and UK.
After the meeting both leaders appeared optimistic that a breakthrough and agreement was within reach, reviving hopes that a deal is now possible.
Protest outside Stormont
A statement said: “Both continue to believe that a deal is in everybody’s interest. They agreed that they could see a pathway to a possible deal.
“Their discussion concentrated on the challenges of customs and consent. They also discussed the potential to strengthen bilateral relations, including on Northern Ireland.”
An upbeat Mr Varadkar later briefed reporters: “I think it is possible to come to an agreement to have a treaty agreed to allow the UK to leave the EU in an orderly fashion and to have that done by the end of October.”
He added that it was “very positive and very promising … I am now absolutely convinced that both Ireland and the UK want there to be an agreement that’s in the interests of Ireland and the UK, and the EU as a whole.”