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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on a Brexit trade deal, London’s tier 3 warning and vaccine fears

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab joined today’s Good Morning Britain to discuss the likelihood of Britain getting a trade deal with the EU by the deadline in four days time.

Speaking to Ben Shephard and Charlotte Hawkins, he was asked, if he was a gambling man, how much money he would put on the UK getting a deal by Sunday.

Raab said: “I’m not really a gambling man, I have to say, sorry. I think it’s difficult to say. The truth is what we know is they had a very frank discussion, there are still significant differences. We will continue the negotiations and I think as you have seen with the Prime Minister going out to Brussels, we will leave no stone unturned."

"We would like to get a free trade deal but what we can’t do is sacrifice the basic points of democratic principle, we can’t be left without any control over our fisheries, unlike any other country in the world and we are not going to allow ourselves to be pegged to rules that we have got no control over, that your viewers can’t hold people like me to account for. We will take a decision, I think both sides recognise that we need some finality and we will take a decision on the future on Sunday," he added.

On Boris Johnson previously describing the chances of a no deal Brexit as “vanishingly small”, he commented: “We have got a deal. We have got the withdrawal agreement, we have got the Northern Ireland protocol, the question was whether we can secure the additional free trade agreement or whether we leave on Australia-style rules. I think [the Prime Minister] has shown over the last 24 hours his will, his flexibility to get a deal over the line. I think Michael Gove has done a great job with our European opposite numbers in the joint committee on Northern Ireland, we have resolved those tensions.

"There has been no lack of flexibility, goodwill, pragmatism on our side. But I think for your viewers, the idea that we would be the only country in the world as we left the transition period on the 1st January not able as an independent coastal state to control our fisheries, not in control of our laws but pegged to EU rules, not just now but in the future, that’s not something I think we can accept or any self-respecting Prime Minister of this country can accept.”

On fears about the consequences of a no deal and its impact on the economy, food prices and supply chains, Mr Raab said: “If we end up without a free trade agreement, and there will be changes no matter what on the 1st Jan, I think there will be some froth if you like, some issues to resolve, but I think we are well placed to deal with those. I don’t accept any of this scaremongering about food prices… Also there are positives come the 1st on January… we have got 27 free trade deals with non-EU countries that we have teed up with, some of those to continue the arrangements that we had as an EU member but some like with Japan on data and digital that will take us further… I am not saying there won’t be changes on the 1st January, or some degree of challenge, there will, but we will make a success of it and let’s not lose sight of the positives and the opportunities.”

Responding to comments from the Tesco CEO that a no deal Brexit will lead to an increase in food prices, Raab said: “In relation to the CEO of Tesco, he actually said earlier in the month that Tesco’s was well placed for Brexit, with an FTA or without a new free trade deal. In relation to food supply, 50 percent of UK food supply comes from within the UK, 20 percent comes from outside the EU, 30 percent from the EU, so we have got a good diversification of food supply.

“On food prices, the risk of course is that the EU impose tariffs on the UK, that would significantly and substantially damage European producers, but even so in relation to the cost of living and the average food basket, it is a very small proportion, many other things will affect the food prices in this country and far more significant than tariffs.”

On the situation with Covid cases rising in London and Wales and whether it is time to rethink the plans for Christmas, he said: “Well we have got a plan coming out of the national lockdown with tiered restrictions and of course with the vaccine rollout and needles going in arms this week, we have also got I think light at the end of the tunnel to the spring where the vaccine programme we hope will get us into a better place… The key question is how we bridge from now to then. You have seen in Wales and London how important it is to keep our eye on the ball, maintain control of this virus and the risk if we don’t.

"The two key elements of that is not to think because of the vaccine breakthrough that we are in the clear, to keep following the rules in every tiered area and also with the testing  that has come through, we have the best testing rate in Europe, we are one of the world leaders now, so make sure that with those two things we bridge safely until the Spring.”

On whether he thinks London will go to Tier 3 after the review next Wednesday, he added:  “I certainly don’t want to pre-empt what happens… We have those review mechanisms so that we can keep control of the virus and of course different regions can go up or down depending on the progress we are making, that’s why I say in every area people  need to keep their eye on the ball… it depends on the state of the virus.”

Following a GMB poll where 43 percent of viewers said they would not take the vaccine, Raab said: “It’s been cleared by the MHRA. With new vaccines, there are issues around allergies, that is quite common. The mechanisms are in place to be able to adapt the guidance accordingly. The reality is this vaccine is safe. I would certainly take it, I would have every one of my family take it."

He added: "It will be crucial to taking the fatality out of this virus, making it something more akin to seasonal flu, and allowing us to move forward, not just in health terms but in economic terms... I think as we make progress with this rollout, confidence will increase.”

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