Britain would be left in a “deeply dangerous” position if David Davis resigned as Brexit Secretary, one of his former colleagues said today.
David Jones urged the Cabinet minister not to quit his job over a row about the so-called Brexit ‘backstop’ plan to make sure the border with Ireland stays open.
Downing Street has drawn up an emergency proposal to keep the UK aligned with EU trade rules if a new customs arrangement is not agreed by the end of the Brexit transition period in December 2020.
But Mr Davis has reportedly threatened to quit over the plan because it contains no specific end date in the event that the backstop is required.
Former Brexit minister Mr Jones this morning said Mr Davis would be a “huge loss to the Government” because he knows “every facet” of the negotiations with Brussels.
“I think we need to make sure David Davis stays at the negotiating table,” he told the Today programme on Radio 4.
“I think he’s one of the Government’s biggest assets in these negotiations and I think anything that caused him to leave would be deeply regrettable and deeply damaging to the country.”
Mr Jones said the backstop plan should be “strictly” time limited and said an indefinite proposal would “probably not be acceptable”.
He said EU rules meant the UK would be unable to quit the arrangment without an end date, leaving the country in a “Hotel California scenario; we’d have checked out but we wouldn’t have left”.
But he insisted: “To contemplate these negotiations continuing without David Davis would be deeply upsetting and deeply dangerous to the country and David Davis needs to stay where he is.”
Brussels is said to be unwilling to countenance a backstop plan with a specified end date because it negates the principle of the safety net.
The Cabinet tensions are set to be aired at a meeting of the Brexit sub-committee this afternoon.
Yesterday Mr Davis said his position was “a question for the Prime Minister, to be honest”.
Speaking about the backstop plan after a speech in London, he said: “The detail of this is being discussed at the moment.
“It’s been through one Cabinet committee, it’s going to another one and it will be improper of me to pre-empt the negotiation there but I suspect it will be fairly decisive tomorrow.”
Downing Street has insisted it does not expect the backstop plan to be needed – but it is yet to reveal its proposals for future customs arrangements with the bloc.