Anti-EU lawmaker David Davis appointed to lead Britain's Brexit negotiations

David Davis was appointed by new Prime Minister Theresa May to lead Britain's negotiations on leaving the European Union.
David Davis was appointed by new Prime Minister Theresa May to lead Britain's negotiations on leaving the European Union.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

LONDON (REUTERS) - David Davis, a staunchly anti-EU lawmaker who believes a free trade deal will be struck with the bloc, was appointed by new Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday to lead Britain's negotiations on leaving the European Union.

Davis, 67, was given the newly-created role of Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union by May hours after she succeeded David Cameron as prime minister and set about building the team to redefine Britain's relationship with the EU.

He will take on the crucial role of seeking to defend Britain's economy whilst unpicking over four decades of trade, legal and diplomatic ties to the EU.

At the heart of the job will be finding an answer to the key negotiating riddle: how can Britain keep access to the EU's single market whilst winning the right to restrict free movement of workers from within the EU?

"Once the European nations realise that we are not going to budge on control of our borders, they will want to talk, in their own interest," he said on Monday in an article for Conservative grassroots website Conservative Home.

Since Britons voted on June 23 to leave the EU, investors and politicians across the world have been left guessing at what Britain's future relationship with Europe will look like.

Davis said the country should take its time before triggering the formal Article 50 process to leave the bloc, but that it could be ready to do so by the start of 2017 after consulting with Britain's constituent nations, businesses, unions and others.

"The negotiating strategy has to be properly designed, and there is some serious consultation to be done first," he said."This whole process should be completed to allow triggering of Article 50 before or by the beginning of next year."

Davis worked in government in Britain's foreign office from 1994 to 1997, with responsibility for negotiations with Europe. During a recent interview with the Yorkshire Post newspaper he recalled that colleagues in Europe had nicknamed him the"charming bastard".

His appointment will set the tone for talks with fellow European states, many of whom have been keen for Britain to move swiftly to begin formal talks, and have talked tough on the prospects of giving away access to the EU single market.

But, in a speech delivered during the Brexit campaign, Davis said: "There is almost certainly going to be a deal, one that maintains a free market between the EU and the UK."

He said Britain's first port of call should be Berlin, not Brussels.

"To strike the deal: absolute access for German cars and industrial goods, in exchange for a sensible deal on everything else," he said. "The reality is that the hard-headed, pragmatic businessmen on the continent will do everything to ensure that trade with Britain continues uninterrupted."