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Wednesday, September 07, 2016

UK Government in disarray on Brexit

Theresa May's assertion that 'Brexit means Brexit' may well have sufficed as a soundbite on the steps of 10 Downing Street as she assumed the premiership, but it clearly is not good enough to enable the UK  to navigate the uncertain future imposed on us by a very close referendum result.

A recent cabinet away day has left us no wiser as to how the government wants to conduct negotiations, what their red lines are and what May's vision is for a post-European Union Britain. So thank goodness we have had the Secretary of State for exiting the EU answering questions in the House of Commons. Perhaps he can enlighten us.

Alas, no. It seems that David Davis' view is no more representative of that held by the UK Government than mine or indeed, that of my cat.

The Guardian reports that when the member for Haltemprice and Howden told MPs that it would be unlikely for Britain to stay in the single market after Brexit negotiations, he was expressing a personal view.

He may have said that the government’s priority was securing restrictions to European migration, and he may have conceded that there could be an economic price to pay for that but that is not the opinion of the Prime Minister.

The paper says that a senior Downing Street official sought to distance Theresa May from the statement. “He is setting out his view that [single market membership] is improbable,” the spokeswoman told journalists, adding that the work on the negotiations was ongoing. “The prime minister recognises that people have differing views and … all of this has to be negotiated with European partners. The prime minister’s view is that we should be ambitious and go after the best deal we can. The secretary of state said we want the best deal for trades and services: that is what the prime minister is doing.”

However, asked again if Davis was expressing a government policy, she said: “He is setting out his opinion. A policy tends to be a direction of travel: saying something is probable or improbable is not policy.”

The spokeswoman also addressed reports that the government is planning to demand a system under which EU citizens coming to the UK must have a job offer. “I’d point you to what the prime minister has said,” she said, highlighting May’s view that the referendum result was a “clear message” that British people wanted to be able to control EU migration. “But there are various ways you can do that and it is something the government is looking at and will come forward with proposals.”

She would not confirm the reports, saying the government had yet to set out any of the options it was looking at, and insisting that it was “not always the right approach to put all your cards on the table at the start”.

She said: “There are range of ways in which you might seek to bring in controls. I didn’t see or hear the prime minister pointing to one particular system, what you’ve seen is her talking about a [points-based immigration] system that she doesn’t think will work.”

What this adds up to of course is that the UK Cabinet is deeply divided as to what Brexit means and are in some disarray as to how to take it forward. None of this instils any confidence that we have a way forward that will protect the UK's interests.
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