British government divided on “hard” or “soft” Brexit

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The British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson admitted on Sunday that Britain will have to pay for access to the Single Market.

Brexiteers break ranks

However, in an interview with the BBC, he opposed transfers that were not “sensible.”

In doing so, he made apparent the division within the British cabinet. Brexit secretary David Davis said last week that tariff-free access to the single market would entail payments. In doing so, he seemed converted to the idea that Britain seeks Single Market membership rather than trade with the EU on World Trade Organization rules.

Johnson favours payments for student exchanges and research, not for trade. The foreign secretary wants to see the money channeled to Brussels spent on “other” and presumably national priorities.

Hard versus Soft Brexit

Both Mr. Johnson and Davis were prominent Leave campaigners. But, the cabinet seems divided among those advocating “hard Brexit” – without Single Market membership – and “soft Brexit,” which implies trading on WTO rules.

Leave campaigners are not keen on single market because that would entail free movement for EU citizens and because it would require the acceptance of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Opposition

Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer warned on Sunday that Labour would not stand on the way of triggering Article 50 but would oppose a deal that does not seek membership of the single market. The former Deputy Prime Minister of the first Cameron Administration, Mr. Clegg, said the Liberals would also oppose Brexit that does not entail a deal on single market membership.

Meanwhile, a group of Tory MPs warned Theresa May on Sunday that moving towards a hard Brexit could alienate a big part of the Conservative constituency that does not want to see the government turning into “UKIP-lite.” The group includes a number of former cabinet ministers.

In an open letter to the Observer argued that the loss of voters to Liberals in a by-election last week was a warning that the 48% who vote to retain British EU membership should not be dismissed as “Remoaners.”

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