Theresa May and her ministers have repeatedly contradicted her own plan to prevent a hugely damaging “no deal” Brexit, new research shows.
The Government is accused of confusing and conflicting statements that clash with her Florence speech – just three weeks after it was meant to secure a breakthrough in the deadlocked talks. The incoherence “raises the risk of a complete breakdown in the Article 50 negotiations, and of a disastrous no deal Brexit”, a pro-EU group warned.
The research – issued as the EU confirmed the exit talks are still floundering – identifies six examples of contradictory statements.
In Florence, the Prime Minister agreed a transitional period was needed to cushion EU withdrawal in March 2019 – and, crucially, that the UK would follow “the existing structure of rules and regulations”.
But Open Britain said she had “serious questions to answer”, after:
* The Prime Minister insisted Britain would not accept the “four pillars” required for single market membership including “free movement, continued in perpetuity ECJ [European Court of Justice] jurisdiction”.
The group said this was “clearly inconsistent with a status quo transition, in which we would need to accept the four freedoms”.
* Ms May also said “when we leave the European Union, we will leave the Common Fisheries Policy”.
* The Prime Minister and others repeatedly insisted Britain would be free to negotiate new free trade agreements, during a transition period.
* Brexit Secretary David Davis said that, after March 2019, the UK would be “outside the European law” during the transition period.
All three statements contradicted Ms May’s pledge to retain “the existing structure of rules and regulations” during transition, Open Britain said.
* Mr Davis’ deputy, Robin Walker, vowed that, after March 2019, the UK “will be free to change the law where they decide it is right to do so”.
The group said this suggested the Brexit department believed the UK would be “outside the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice” – when Ms May said it would be inside, at least temporarily.
* Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom, the Leader of the House Commons, said that the “four freedoms end in 2019”.
Again, this contradicted the Prime Minister saying EU citizens would retain the freedom to come here during transition, said Open Britain.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, Heidi Alexander, a Labour MP supporting Open Britain, warned: “These inconsistencies matter because they exacerbate the uncertainty and anxiety being felt by people and businesses across the UK.
“It also sends a message across the EU that the Government is saying one thing to our negotiating partners, and something else entirely to domestic audiences, and that ministers are given free rein to say what they like.
“This, of course, further raises the risk of a complete breakdown in the Article 50 negotiations – and of a disastrous no deal Brexit.”
Significantly, in Brussels, chief negotiator Michael Barnier argued the deadlock could be broken if Britain negotiated “on the basis of the commitments entered into by Theresa May in Florence”.