Speaking on Monday at the annual Conservative party conference in Birmingham, Raab warned the EU – and his divided party – that the country will leave the bloc without a deal rather than accept continued close adherence to its rules and obligations.
If the EU tries to « lock us in via the back door » by keeping Britain in the bloc’s single market or customs union, « then we will be left with no choice but to leave without a deal », he said.
Raab said it was « unthinkable » that the UK government could be bullied by the threat of an economic embargo by the EU and promised to deliver Brexit on the terms of the June 2016 referendum.
« I find it hard to believe that [the EU] would, for narrow political ends, seek to punish Britain in such a crass and counterproductive way, » he said.
In his upbeat address, Raab spoke of the UK’s culture of innovation and framed leaving the EU as an opportunity for securing new trade partnerships, calling Brexit a « springboard to a buccaneering embrace of free trade ».
The minister, who described himself as a « stubborn optimist », also used his speech to call for unity in his party, which has been increasingly divided since Prime Minister Theresa May announced the « Chequers agreement » – a roadmap for the post-Brexit relationship between the UK and EU – in July.
Several cabinet ministers, including Raab’s predecessor David Davis, resigned over the proposal and continue to criticise it publicly.
« We’ve had our arguments, but now is the time to put them behind us, now is the time to come together, because this is a moment for the optimists, » he said.
‘Extreme’ Labour undermines democracy
Brussels has also attacked the Chequers plan, with European Commission President Donald Tusk saying « it won’t work » and French President Emmanuel Macron dismissing the proposal as « not acceptable ».
Raab brushed aside calls for a second referendum or « People’s Vote » if the final Brexit deal is rejected by parliament, saying that disrespecting the results of the Brexit referendum risked leading the UK down the path of extremism.
« Trust in our democracy would all but vanish […] If there’s mass dissolusion with the system, it’s the populous – the far-left, the alt-right – who will reap the reward, as they have in other countries where the establishment have ignored people’s concerns, » he said.
During Monday’s speech Raab also attacked the opposition Labour party who, at their own annual conference in September, voted to back a second referendum, criticising leader Jeremy Corbyn and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnel for hijacking the party.
« They’re using all the tools in the extremist armoury: intimidation, fantasism, scapegoating – especially against the Jews ».
Corybn and his party are currently embroiled in an anti-semitism scandal, centering on Corbyn’s initial refusal to accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-semitism and his attendance at a wreath-laying ceremony in Tunisia in 2014.