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Monday, July 31, 2017

Cabinet splits on Brexit threaten our future

Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, those responsible for negotiating our way out of the European Community start to publicly fall out with themselves on what they want from those talks.

As the Guardian reports, that senior Conservative MPs are urging members of Theresa May’s cabinet to stop publicly setting out their demands for a transitional deal on Brexit, saying the move could make negotiations with the European Union more difficult.

They say that Philip Hammond, Amber Rudd, Damian Green, David Gauke and Greg Clark are among those likely to push the prime minister to accept that while free movement will officially end, there should be no immediate move to reduce immigration.

However, the divisions in the cabinet have been laid bare as Liam Fox said in an interview that there was no cabinet-wide agreement on what a post-Brexit implementation period should look like, and warned that “control of our own borders” was a key driver of the leave vote:

While the prime minister is on holiday, the chancellor has made a series of interventions, including claiming that the UK’s relationship could look “similar in many ways” for some time after formally leaving the bloc in 2019. He has been supported by Rudd, who ordered an analysis of EU migration, but also made clear that EU citizens would be free to continue coming to the UK during the transition period, as long as they registered.

The Guardian understands that a letter from the home secretary setting out the policy was not shared with cabinet colleagues. Fox and Boris Johnson were also not primed to expect a major government announcement on the issue last week when they were both out of the country, although they were aware of the policy.

Separately, the chancellor has denied that he wanted to turn the UK into a deregulated, Singapore-style economy. Hammond told France’s Le Monde: “I often hear it said that Britain is considering participating in unfair competition in regulation and tax.

“That is neither our plan nor our vision for the future. The amount of tax we raise as a percentage of our GDP puts us right in the middle of the pack.” He argued that after Brexit the country would keep a “social, economic and cultural model that is recognisably European”.

Sources have revealed that senior Treasury officials want to maintain a close association with the EU customs union during transition, but also have not ruled out retaining that relationship in the long term. That could prevent the UK signing new free trade agreements in the future – a move that would increase tensions between Hammond and Fox.

What makes this worse is that the official opposition is equally as divided. With the Labour leadership intent on working with hard line Tories in securing a hard Brexit, the voices of dissent behind them are growing louder and louder.

The case for a referendum on whatever emerges from this mess is growing stronger every day. This headlong rush into disaster has to be stopped somehow.
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