Brexiteer Letter Demands Brexit

A Change Britain letter circulated among the European Research Group of Brexiter Tory MPs and leaked to The Times is causing a great deal of excitement. It is being described as a list of red lines from hardline Brexiters insisting Britain doesn’t pay any money into the EU budget and is able to sign trade deals during the transition. The letter is being reported as “a major challenge for Mrs May”, while Anna Soubry says she is “hugely disappointed” that Brexiters want to “bind the government’s hands”. Is that really what Brexiters are trying to do?

The letter was intended to be briefed to a friendly Sunday newspaper as a show of support for the government. Those behind it insist it was supposed to be uncontroversial and simply attack Labour for wanting to remain in the single market and customs union. If you read the actual letter, it largely agrees with government policy…

The letter’s key request is that we leave the single market and customs union – that is government policy. It doesn’t insist that we pay no money into the EU budget during the transition, it simply points out staying in the single market means we “have” to pay in. This is not contrary to the government’s position – when we leave we legally don’t owe anything, but we will pay our obligations and use money as a negotiating tactic. The most awkward “demand” is to be able to sign trade deals during the transition period, currently only an “aspiration” of the government. Crucially, the letter’s signatories tell Guido this is a hope, a desire, not a red line. Obviously Brexiters would prefer us to be able to sign trade deals immediately during the transition, but they are hardly planning to bring down the government if there is compromise on this point…

So is the letter a “major challenge” to the PM? Are Brexiters really worried about the government going soft and trying to “bind their hands”? That isn’t the impression Guido gets from Leave supporting MPs this afternoon. The vast majority of Brexiter MPs insist that they are happy with the government’s plan. They say the letter wasn’t intended to be controversial, and note if it appeared as choreographed on Sunday it would be causing a lot less fuss than it coming out as a leak to The Times. Senior Tories are peeved about the story but relaxed about the situation. Guido urges readers and journalists to look at the actual letter, it is essentially just Brexiters asking for Brexit…




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