Battle lines are being drawn around parliament as Prime Minister Theresa May faces fresh Tory infighting within her fragile administration. Those who want a hard split from the European Union (EU) and those who want a so-called “soft Brexit” are rounding on each other as the deadline nears for the end of the first negotiations with Brussels.
A total of 19 MPs have backed calls for May to ignore cabinet ministers like Michael Gove, who are promoting a hard Brexit. “We wish to make it clear that we are disappointed yet again that some MPs and others seek to impose their own conditions on these negotiations,” they wrote in a letter.
“In particular, it is highly irresponsible to seek to dictate terms which could lead to the UK walking away from these negotiations.”
Ex-ministers Stephen Crabb, Dominic Grieve, Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan were among the signatories.
Britain’s prosperity, the letter said, was the reason for the calls.
“Those who say that if such an outcome happens the UK will ‘revert to World Trade Organization’ rules deliberately make it sound as if some status quo which the UK simply opts to adopt,” they add.
“They miss the many business and other voices who have made it clear that a ‘no deal’ post-March 2019 scenario would lead to great uncertainty for EU citizens living here and UK citizens living in the EU, higher costs and reduced choice for consumers, disruption at our ports and borders, and grave questions about how cross-border contracts are to be fulfilled.”
However, other influential MPs took the side of the Brexiteers. Iain Duncan Smith said the UK should walk away from the EU and prepare for a no-deal scenario if bureaucrats in the bloc continue to try and bully Britain.
EU negotiators led by Michel Barnier have repeatedly said they will not continue discussions if their demands are not met.
Despite being called “highly irresponsible,” British MPs have pointed out it is in Brussels’ interest to do a deal with the UK and, if the debate is one sided, Britain should back out. The division will deepen the cracks that are destroying the Conservative government as ministers are also fighting.
Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson and Chancellor Philip Hammond are currently at loggerheads over the promotion of the former chief whip to a role for which many believe he does not have enough experience.
Jacob Rees-Mogg warned Theresa May yesterday that her negotiating red lines “were beginning to look a bit pink” as she dances to the tune of her Irish colleagues. The fragile DUP deal was almost undone when the PM made an offer on the Irish border, but failed to let DUP leader Arlene Foster know.
An eleventh-hour call was made when Foster found out that the terms would see different rules applied to Northern Ireland compared to the rest of the UK, in order to avoid a ‘hard’ border with the Republic, which is in the EU.
The Brussels deal could then not be solved and Theresa May came back to London empty handed, and had to begin negotiating with both sides of the island of Ireland again.