20 Feb 2018

Over 60 MPs sign letter to Prime Minister in defence of full fat Brexit

A letter from the Europe Research Group to the Prime Minister has turned up in The Times. There is an air of menace about it not least exemplified by the 62 signatures on the bottom of it. It’s 48 MPs that are required to trigger a vote of no confidence.

The letter went into No. 10 on Friday and today the PM met Jacob Rees-Mogg to chat about Brexit. The ERG Brexiteers feel they are getting a lot of assurances but aren’t sure they can bank them.

The letter says that some lawyers suggest the government could actually sign trade agreements with third countries during the so-called “implementation period” after Brexit. The EU doesn’t see it that way and there’s no chance of them budging on that. The real game in play is the second bullet point which addresses what the Brexit Committee will be discussing at Chequers on Thursday.

There the government hopes it can come to some sort of agreement on staying aligned with EU rules post-Brexit in sectors while reserving the right to diverge in the future. That divergence though would be subject to some kind of agreement apparatus with the EU which would see the EU reduce market access in retaliation for divergence.

ERG members worry that within that part of the government position being worked on lies a great threat to their dream of Britain moving away from the snare of EU law. Will divergence be easily possible? Will the agreement mechanism put some kind of brake on British decision-making. Could Britain, post-Brexit, be ensnared in the net of EU rules forever?

It’s telling that these MPs don’t seem to trust their fellow Brexiteers attending the Cabinet committee to defend the cause but they hold Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heywood and Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins in special loathing. They fear these senior officials have dreamt up a scheme to frustrate full fat Brexit. This is an attempt to head them off. It doesn’t make Theresa May’s life any easier

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