British exit from EU ‘neither high risk nor frightening’ says top Yorkshire Tory

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Leaving the European Union could trigger “a bright new future” for the UK, senior Conservative MP David Davis has said.

Rejecting arguments of “scaremongers” that departure would be damaging to jobs and trade, Mr Davis insisted that exit is “neither high-risk nor frightening” for Britain, giving it a strong bargaining position in any membership renegotiation if it makes clear it is ready to walk away.

The former Tory chairman, who fought David Cameron for the party leadership in 2005, urged the Prime Minister to pursue a “much more ambitious” strategy than currently envisaged in the renegotiation he has promised if he wins next year’s general election. Writing in the Mail on Sunday, the Haltemprice and Howden MP said it was now generally assumed that Ukip will win the European elections on May 22, adding that Nigel Farage’s TV debates with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg had put the question of whether Britain was better off in or out “in the centre of public debate”.

Britain has to recognise that “leaving is a real possibility, and make our partners recognise that”, he said.

He dismissed as “nonsense” Mr Clegg’s claims that Britain would be isolated outside the EU and would struggle to forge acceptable trade deals.

As the world’s sixth largest economy with the fourth largest military budget and membership of the G7, G20, UN Security Council, Nato, OECD and Commonwealth, “little if any” of Britain’s influence and reputation is dependent on the EU, said Mr Davis.

“The remaining EU members have a massive vested interest in ongoing free trade with the UK,” he said. “If a British exit happened tomorrow, we would be the EU’s single biggest market, accounting for 21 per cent of its exports, so our negotiating clout would be enormous.

“In short, we can get a good deal from the EU, and the EU knows it. Exit is neither high-risk nor frightening.

Britain should demand a permanent opt-out from future EU proposals which it feels are not in its national interest, Mr Davis said.