Michael Gove has said there will be a “one or two ups and downs” in securing a Brexit trade deal with the European Union, but insisted that he remains optimistic.
Speaking on the possibility of a trade deal with the EU at the Tory conference at the virtual Conservative Party conference, Mr Gove said: “I’m optimistic. It has been a tough process because the EU has never had to cope with any country leaving its orbit before, and it is a bit difficult.
“As we leave the nest and become good neighbours rather than uncomfortable lodgers, the EU has to adjust.
“And several aspects of the adjustment have proved difficult for the European Union – recognising that we share the same high environmental and workforce standards as they do but we want to do things in our own way is a bit difficult for them and also there is the very vexed issue to do with fisheries.
“The EU think that they should have exactly the same access to our waters outside the European Union as they have inside.
“But I think with goodwill we should be able to get a deal.”
He added: “But if we don’t, we have been making extensive preparations to be ready for anything.
“The British people voted for us to leave, we are determined to honour that.
“But obviously if we can secure a negotiated outcome and a free trade agreement, that would be hugely helpful for sectors of the economy, not least the automotive industry.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he wants to secure a trade deal like that struck between the European Union and Canada.
He told reporters: “I think there’s a good deal to be done and everybody knows what we want to do.
“The EU has done a deal with Canada which is a long way away, big country but some way away.
“Here we are, we’re the biggest trading partner of the EU, their biggest export market, plus we’ve been a member for 45 years – we want a deal like Canada’s, we want that one!”
He added: “If that’s not possible, and that wouldn’t be our call that would be their call, then the alternative is to have a deal like Australia which is another big country, further away, but it would work well and we could make it work very well.
“We’re resolved on either course, we’re prepared for either course and we’ll make it work but it’s very much up to our friends and partners.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told the virtual Conservative Party conference the UK will no longer be “held over a barrel by Brussels”.
During his conference speech, he said: “Yes we want a free trade deal with the EU, but any deal must be fair.
“The days of being held over a barrel by Brussels are long gone.
“Under the Conservatives, there is no question: our Government will control our fisheries, our Parliament will pass our laws and our courts will judge them.”
Yesterday, Ireland’s premier Micheal Martin has said there is a “mood to engage” within Europe with the UK Government but that nobody was underestimating the task ahead.
Mr Martin also said it was highly unlikely that a deal would be struck between the EU and the UK in the next fortnight.