THE Brexit Secretary has said a North-East port will be the "gateway to the world" as he visit the region to set out the country's aims for leaving the EU.

David Davis visited PD Ports in Teesport yesterday to formally set out the UK’s aims for the transition period of leaving the EU, whilst also playing down Cabinet rifts over Europe, insisting there is “no difference” between himself, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Theresa May on the outcome they are seeking.

Addressing a crowd of business leaders and politicians in Teesport yesterday, Mr Davis said the UK will be able to negotiate and sign trade deals with outside countries during the two-year transition period expected to follow the official date of Brexit in March 2019.

Loading article content

He said he will argue for Britain to continue to enjoy the benefits of more than 750 international agreements, including trade deals with non-EU countries, during the transition period.

And in a bid to allay Eurosceptic concerns over Britain being required to follow EU rules while having no say in drawing them up, he said he will seek the establishment of an “appropriate process” for the UK to object to any new laws introduced during transition.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said Mr Davis saw first-hand how Britain is "ready to embrace the new and exciting freedoms and opportunities on offer after we leave the EU", but Anna Turley, MP for Redcar, described the speech as "underwhelming".

Mr Hammond earned a rebuke from Downing Street on Thursday by saying that Britain’s trade relations with the EU would change only “very modestly” after Brexit.

And the Chancellor risked stoking Tory divisions further on Friday by saying the UK should seek a “middle way” in negotiations in order to maximise access to EU markets.

“Of course we will leave the institutions of the Union next March, but we will still make our voice heard,” said Mr Davis.

“This will be a relationship where respect flows both ways, as we move from being a member of the European Union to its closest partner.”

Mr Davis portrayed the two-year transition - known by UK ministers as an “implementation period” - as “the bridge that we plan to build to smooth the path to our new relationship with the European Union after Brexit”.

Mr Davis said: “There is no difference between the Chancellor and myself and indeed the Prime Minister in terms that we both want a Brexit that serves the British economy and serves the British people.

“There will be arguments about the tactics but they will change, the options available to us will change throughout the course of the negotiations.”

Mr Houchen said: “When we leave the EU, an enormous amount of power and money will be transferred back to the UK. This is what I campaigned for, and this is what the people of the Tees Valley voted for.

“I told that Minister that these new powers repatriated from Europe should be devolved to our area, and that the Government should guarantee the replacement of EU funds to the Tees Valley after we leave."

Ms Turley said: It is pure fantasy to claim we will still have a voice during the transition as we will have resigned from being involved in the decision-making process.

"People voted to take back control but in reality we will have to accept the rules without having any say in them.

"As well as having no voice, we also can’t negotiate deals as who would negotiate without knowing what our relationship with Europe will be."