The Prime Minister’s no-nonsense approach to negotiations had proved we will not be bullied into accepting a bad Brexit deal and put European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and his allies “back in their box”, he said.
Mr Davis also revealed half his time at the Department for Exiting the EU is spent preparing for the possibility of the Government walking away from Brexit talks without a deal.
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“We’ve shown we mean business. We won’t engage in silly games but neither will we put up with silly games,” Mr Davis said.
He was speaking exclusively to the Daily Express after helping Mrs May unveil the Tory manifesto today.
Her blueprint for a clean break from the EU was at the heart of the 84-page document.
Mr Davis said it set out the kind of Brexit the Tories are determined to deliver, taking Britain out of the EU single market and Customs union and restoring full control over immigration.
“It is very plain and very explicit. This is what we are determined to deliver,” he said, urging voters to give Mrs May a firm mandate.
Davies revealed to Macer Hall he spends half his time preparing for the UK leaving with no deal
We won’t engage in silly games but neither will we put up with silly games
EU Exit Secretary David Davis
Speaking in Halifax, West Yorkshire, immediately after the manifesto launch, Mr Davis insisted the Government had got the better of Mr Juncker in the first “skirmish” of the Brexit negotiations.
Ministers had refused to engage in a tit-for-tat briefing war after Commission officials had leaked a highly partisan account of a dinner in Downing Street last month.
“We waited 48 hours while people in Brussels started criticising Theresa and launching various attacks on me,” he said.
Brexit debate in pictures
Mon, April 17, 2017
The debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg will focus on key issues of the Brexit talks including reciprocal rights for EU citizens, the peace process in Northern Ireland and trade
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Former leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage (L) gestures as he speaks with EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker (R) prior to a debate on the conclusions of the last European Council, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg
“And then she said, ‘That’s enough!’ and put them back in their box, basically.
“What has happened since is that Juncker has admitted it was a bad mistake, Michel Barnier [chief EU negotiator] is being constructive, so we think now we are going to get off to a good start.
“There will still be bumps along the way, that is guaranteed to happen because there will come times when they want to test our resolve and see if we really mean it.
Ministers refused to engage in a tit-for-tat exchange after the Downing Street Dinner leak
“The public will have to sit through some slightly tense periods. But that’s OK, I am confident we can get there.”
Mr Davis warned that in the “unthinkable” circumstances of Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister, he would simply “surrender” to Brussels and accept a punishing Brexit deal.
“They are saying they would never walk away. It is the same as buying a house – if you walk in and say I am going to buy this house you are going to pay an awful lot for it.
“Anybody who has to do any negotiation in any aspect of their lives knows you can’t just say, ‘We will take any deal rather than walk away’, which is what Labour is prepared to do. Half of my work is preparing the ‘walk away’ option.
“I don’t expect it will ever be used but it has got to be there as an available option if we absolutely need it.”
Mr Davis took a swipe at former colleague George Osborne for suggesting that no senior ministers backed the pledge to reduce annual migration below 100,000.
“He is absolutely wrong,” he said.
“But we have not put a timetable on this because it will depend on the economy.
“We will bring immigration down in a way that is responsible, has got the clear aim of a sustainable level, which is the tens of thousands.”
In an optimistic look ahead to a prosperous future outside the EU, Mr Davis insisted that the economic boost from freedom to trade globally would far outstrip the dividend from ending Britain’s contribution to Brussels coffers.
“It’s about preserving as much as we can of our current markets within Europe but also finding new markets in the rest of the world,” he said.
Mr Davis described the project of Jeremy Corbyn booming Prime Minister as ‘unthinkable’
“Back in 1999, 60 per cent of British exports went to Europe and 40 per cent to the rest of the world.
Very soon, that number will have turned around so 60 per cent goes to the rest of the world and 40 per cent to Europe.
“That is because although Europe is a relatively wealthy market it is not growing anywhere near as fast as the rest of the world.
“We have to make the most of those markets. If you do that, you let people create wealth and jobs, you bring in investment and that in turn creates a tax base for the real money for the health service.
“It’s no good promising decent pensions or a good health service if you haven’t got the money for it.” Mr Davis pleaded with Tory supporters not to be complacent.
“I remember 1970 when Ted Heath got in with a turnover on the night,” he said.