Theresa May's Brexit transition period strategy 'not agreed with Cabinet'

Written by Nicholas Mairs on 22 February 2018 in News

Cabinet ministers say they did not agree to Theresa May's transition period strategy days before an away day aimed at healing divisions

Theresa May - PA

Theresa May has angered Cabinet ministers by signing off on Britain’s negotiating strategy for the transition period after Brexit, according to reports.

The draft of the UK’s negotiating position frustrated senior eurosceptics after it revealed the transition should be as long as is necessary to put in place arrangements for the future UK-EU relationship.

The leaked document, revealed yesterday morning, suggests the Government is still aiming for a two-year transition period, but it leaves the door open for negotiations to go on longer than December 2020.

The clash comes as May’s Brexit inner cabinet meet for an away day at Chequers to thrash out a deal on Britain’s future relationship with the EU, where talks are expected to go on late into the evening.

A Government spokesman told The Telegraph that the Brexit Cabinet sub-committee had signed off the transition period stance at a meeting in January, but not the legal text sent to EU nations.

A source added: "Every policy detail was signed off at a meeting of the Brexit Cabinet last month. In addition, the precise legal text was circulated in advance of publication."

However the paper reports today that allies of Liam Fox told them the document was a "draft of a draft" and has not been agreed by the ministers.

Meanwhile a cabinet minister told Holyrood's sister site PoliticsHome."The full cabinet have never discussed, let alone agreed it."

Yet in a sign of the division within May’s ranks, another added: "You can't keep everyone happy but I don't think the solution is making everyone unhappy".

Meanwhile senior Tory eurosceptics are said to find the document "deeply troubling" and have urged the Prime Minister to disown it.

Former cabinet minister, Iain Duncan-Smith told the Telegraph: "I am deeply concerned that a policy document turns out not to be an agreed government position.

“There are genuinely deep concerns about policy areas, particularly around not being able to sign trade deals."

The interventions come after dozens of Tory MPs signed Jacob Rees-Mogg’s letter of hard Brexit demands, including "full regulatory autonomy" from Brussels and an ability to sign trade deals within the transition period.

The prominent backbencher launched a fresh swipe at the latest revelations, saying the draft position represents "Brexit in name only" and is a "perversion of democracy".

"It has been disowned by ministers as not representing government policy. Concern over lost control over migration was a significant issue in the referendum,” he wrote. 

"Whoever compiled this document proposes no changes to it for an indefinite period and would thereby let down millions of voters for whom this was an important issue."

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