Mr Raab stated in his speech that “good progress on the outstanding issues” that need to be resolved on the Withdrawal Agreement had been made but as 29 March 2019 draws closer preparations for a ‘no deal’ Brexit would have to be accelerated. The acceleration of preparations would be consistent with the statement issued by the UK Government after the Cabinet away day at Chequers earlier this year which stated:
“It remains our firm view that it is in the best interests of both sides to reach agreement on a good and sustainable future relationship. But we also concluded that it was responsible to continue preparations for a range of potential outcomes, including the possibility of ‘no deal’. Given the short period remaining before the necessary conclusion of negotiations this autumn, we agreed preparations should be stepped up.”
In addition to accelerating no deal preparations, Mr Raab said that it has now been agreed with the EU that there will be “continuous negotiations”, in order to “energise the final phase of the diplomacy and to reach a deal that is in both sides’ interests”. The UK Government already has more than 7,000 people working on Brexit and there is funding for an extra 9,000 staff to be recruited into the civil service, enabling the UK Government to accelerate its preparations as and when it needs to.
Mr Raab concluded by saying that his message was a pragmatic one – take note of the practical information the UK Government is providing, stay engaged with the UK Government on the detail and review any contingency planning.