The former Brexit Secretary made the claim in a blog post on the ConservativeHome website. European Union and UK negotiators have already agreed the transition period, which is due to run until the end of 2020 and during which time the UK will be subject to EU rules, can only begin if a Brexit deal is reached. But David Davis, who quit his role in July in opposition to Theresa May’s Brexit plans, wrote: “We can deliver an honest and clean Brexit, leaving all the possibilities such as global free trade deals open for bright future.
“If we need to leave with no deal and negotiate a free trade agreement during the transition period, so be it. Let’s be clear and honest and till the EU that’s what we are prepared to do.”
His claims were quickly ridiculed by senior political figures across social media.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who is also a member of the pro-EU group Best for Britain, tweeted: “These comments by David Davis are completely unbelievable. He is frankly just deluded or just plain stupid.
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“It seems like the man who was in charge of delivering Brexit doesn’t understand the process. You can’t have a transition without a deal and everyone knows that.
“The truth is that there are two genuine options available to the parliament and to the country: firstly the government’s deal that loses us decision making power and would leave us worse off, and second, our current deal that would keep our prosperity, keep our say over EU laws and trade agreements and deliver what the majority of people in the UK now want.”
Jon Worth, visiting professor in EU policy at Bruges’s College of Europe, tweeted: “How the sodding hell has Britain had a Brexit Minister who does not even understand the basic scheduling of the process? Or is so mendacious or lazy he doesn’t want to understand?”
Mr Davis’ gaffe emerged as he appeared alongside Jacob Rees-Mogg at a press conference where the chairman of the European Research Group admitted the plot from Tory rebels to oust Theresa May as Prime Minister has staked after a slowdown in no-confidence letters submitted to the 1922 Committee.
He conceded too many MPs are now convinced there should only be a no-confidence vote if Mrs May loses a Commons vote on the agreement struck with the European Union.
Last week, ERG members were confidently predicting they would get the 48 letters required to trigger a no confidence vote in Mrs May’s leadership.
But Monday passed without any announcement from the chairman of the 1922 Committee, Sir Graham Brady, they have reached that crucial tally, while the number of MPs who have publicly declared they have submitted letters has stalled at just 26.
Appearing alongside the former Brexit Secretary to launch the ERG’s ‘Myths of leaving the customs union’ report in London, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “We shall see where the letters come in due time, and there’s a meaningful vote and we will see what happens with that to a government that seems to have alienated its confidence and supply arguments.”
He even accepted it is now “odds on” the Prime Minister will lead the Conservatives into the next general election.
Asked whether it might be difficult to secure the 158 votes needed in Parliament to oust Mrs May in a confidence vote, he said: “I would wait and see about that. You speak to Tory MPs and find Tory MPs who say they are really keen that Theresa May should lead us into the next general election.
“Basically, if there is a vote of confidence it is not just for a year.
“Getting the 48 letters has shown to be quite difficult, so the idea that in a year you just repeat the process and then she would go at that point. I don’t think that is realistic.
“I think it is now or the Prime Minister will lead the Conservatives into the next election.”