Background Note: The Government’s contradiction on ‘no deal’

The Prime Minister is expected to give a speech in the West Midlands later today on Brexit, in which she will say that “economic prosperity will suffer, jobs and livelihoods will be put at risk, and with them the security and peace of mind of working families” if the Government fails to secure a successful Brexit negotiation with the European Union.

This represents a serious contradiction in the Government’s rhetoric over Brexit, given their repeated insistence that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, as this Open Britain background note sets out. 

  • The Prime Minister and Government ministers repeat the mantra that “no deal is better than a bad deal”, signalling that they would be prepared to walk away from Brexit negotiations. 
  • At the same time, however, the Prime Minister has said that reaching a deal with the EU is essential for our “prosperity, our place in the world, our standard of living, and the opportunities we want for our children”.
  • Indeed, the Prime Minister justified calling the election by saying it will “strengthen my hand” in negotiations and help her reach a deal.
  • Both positions cannot be true: if a deal is essential, no deal must be a disaster; if no deal is acceptable, a deal cannot be as important as is claimed.
  • The Government called a Brexit election but have a contradictory and incoherent Brexit position. The Prime Minister must answer the following questions:

-        If reaching a deal is essential for our national “prosperity, our place in the world, our standard of living, and the opportunities we want for our children”, what are the consequences of no deal? 

-        The Conservative Party has said that if they fail in negotiations, the consequences for Britain and for “the economic security of ordinary working people will be dire”. What are those consequences?

-        If the election returns a Conservative majority on the grounds that this will strengthen the Prime Minister’s hand in negotiations to reach a deal, surely reaching no deal would be a sign of the Prime Minister’s failure?  

  • The truth is, no deal would damage the UK economy, erect trade barriers and harm national security. The Prime Minister is being reckless with the truth and the economy and should rule out leaving with no deal.

Theresa May has made clear a deal is essential

  • “The central challenge we face is negotiating the best deal for Britain in Europe. Our future prosperity, our place in the world, our standard of living, and the opportunities we want for our children – and our children’s children – each and every one depends on having the strongest possible hand as we enter those negotiations in order to get the best Brexit deal for families across this country.” (18 May 2017)

  • “Every vote for me and my team in this election will strengthen my hand in the negotiations to come.“ (18 May 2017)

  • “In our talks today, I have reaffirmed the UK’s desire for an enduring deep and special partnership with the EU, including a bold and ambitious free trade agreement which gives British companies the maximum freedom to trade with and operate within European markets – and allows European businesses to do the same in Britain.” (28 April 2017)

  • “Yes, I am optimistic that we can achieve a good and comprehensive free trade deal with the EU. Why am I optimistic about that? Because it’s not just about what’s in the UK’s interests but also what is in the interests of the EU.” (9 March 2017)

  • “I am confident that a positive agreement can be reached. It is right that the government should prepare for every eventuality – but to do so in the knowledge that a constructive and optimistic approach to the negotiations to come is in the best interests of Europe and the best interests of Britain. We do not approach these negotiations expecting failure, but anticipating success.” (17 January 2017)

As has David Davis

  • “Our country’s future prosperity is at stake…all that depends on getting the right Brexit deal and for that we need strong and stable leadership. With Theresa May, Britain has a PM to lead the UK through these negotiations. If we fail the consequences for working people will be dire.”

David Davis, Conservative Party 2017 Manifesto launch 

  • “‘We are seeking to ensure a smooth and orderly exit from the European Union. It will not be in the interests of either side, either Britain or the European Union, to see disruption.” (20 October 2016)

As has the Conservative Party’s General Election campaign – repeatedly

  • “If we fail, the consequences for Britain and for the economic security of ordinary working people will be dire.” (@Conservatives twitter feed 18 May 2017 12:53)
  • Every vote for @theresa_may’s team will strengthen her hand at the Brexit negotiations to get the best deal for your family. (@Conservatives twitter feed, 14 May, 08:07) 

  • Talking to workers today in Mansfield at the Linney Group. A good deal for businesses depends on a strong hand in the Brexit negotiations. (@theresa_may twitter feed 10 May 2017 13:42)

  • Your family’s economic security is too important to risk. Who will get the best Brexit deal for your family & the UK - me or Jeremy Corbyn? (@theresa_may twitter feed 3 May 2017 06:26)