Trade

UK minister: Theresa Mays plan isnt Brexiteer sellout

Prime Minister Theresa Mays new Brexit plan is not a sellout by Brexiteers, but a way to ensure U.K. businesses can continue selling “the same products across Europe,” Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said Saturday.

The U.K. prime minister presented an ultimatum to her divided Cabinet on Friday to back her deal or leave the government. Despite disquiet ahead of the meeting from Brexiteers that the deal amounted to a Brexit in name only because it would effectively make the U.K. a rule-taker from Brussels, her ministers backed the deal last night. It is now subject to negotiation with the EU.

Speaking to the BBCs Today Program, Grayling, a prominent Leave supporter, said the deal would end freedom of movement and the remit of the European Court of Justice in the U.K. He presented the prime ministers plan for a U.K.-EU free-trade area as merely a pragmatic measure to ensure continuity for exporters.

“I didnt campaign to leave the European Union to have a different specification of motor car on sale in the U.K. to the one thats on sale in France,” he said, adding that in any case, “In practical terms it would be immensely difficult if not impossible to do customs checks [at the port of Dover].”

EU negotiator Michel Barnier welcomed the outbreak of Cabinet unity last night on Twitter but said he would wait to see the details in the governments white paper, expected next week.

But Elmar Brok, a senior MEP and member of the European Parliaments Brexit Steering Group, indicated that the plan would not be welcomed with open arms in Brussels. Also speaking on Today, he said the plan amounts to an attempt to divide the four freedoms of the single market — people, goods, capital and services.

“We have always said all freedoms together,” he said. Even if the EU were to accept a partial involvement in the single market, he pointed out that Norway pays for access — something that May does not appear to be proposing.

On the future role of the ECJ though, he suggested there might be room for flexibility in the talks. “If it is a single market for goods then it is European legislation which has to be applied … Normally when you have to fulfil the rules of European Union then you have to accept the role of the court of justice [but] that can be discussed.”

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the Brexiteer group on the Tory backbenches said the deal “raises a number of questions” over how the common rule book for goods standards would change in future; the role of the ECJ; and the role of the EUs anti-fraud office. But he declined to dismiss the prime ministers plan until he has seen the details.

He said that if the arrangement means the U.K. does not have the flexibility to strike its own trade deals then he will not support it. “That is not something that I will vote for,” he said, “This is where the advantages of Brexit come from.”

“As with eggs, an egg that is very softly boiled is not boiled at all,” he added.

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