David Cameron ally warns Theresa May a hard Brexit will be a 'stupid Brexit'
A close ally of David Cameron has warned a hard Brexit will be a “stupid Brexit”, in an apparent attack on Cabinet hardliners Liam Fox and David Davis.
Lord Hill, a former EU Commissioner under the previous Prime Minister, said the Government had to approach the exit talks in a “sensible way”, with a willingness to make deals.
He also said Britain and the EU would fail to deliver a successful divorce if they “end up shouting at each other”.
The comments came after Theresa May was apparently snubbed in Brussels by being made to wait until 1am to deliver a five-minute speech on her Brexit aims.
Meanwhile, German MEP Manfred Weber, who heads the centre-right European People’s Party, warned of an “impact” on the Brexit talks if Britain insists on playing a central role in the EU until the moment it leaves.
Lord Hill, who quit his role as senior representative in Brussels following the Brexit vote, also warned of the danger of “mutually self-harming” acts, if relations between Britain and the EU deteriorate.
And he suggested that many EU leaders still believed Britain was too smart to go through with quitting the EU.
Lord Hill told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think there is a surprisingly widely-held view that Britain might still decide to stay in.
“I think they also believe, when people start to look at the practical consequences of disentangling ourselves from this very complicated relationship, then maybe we will think again.”
Hard Brexit would see a clean break with the EU’s single market in trade of goods, in order to end free movement of citizens and impose strict controls on immigrants.
Brexit Secretary David Davis and Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, appear prepared to put the UK on hefty World Trade Organisation tariffs, if no new trade deal can be struck.
But Lord Hill said: “I think we have this kind of false choice in the UK often between hard Brexit and soft Brexit.
“I think the choice is between stupid Brexit and more intelligent Brexit and that is what we need to go for.
“My whole approach to this would be that if we approach it in a sensible way, because the European system is a deal-based system.
“There is more scope for trying to resolve it intelligently than if we go at it in a way where we all end up shouting at each other.”
He also attacked the idea of hardline Brexiteers that the EU will offer Britain favourable trade terms because it needs the UK to keep buying products such as German cars and French cheese and wine.
“People here, I think, forget that for the Europeans the project, it’s an emotional project, it’s a political project and actually it’s quite a romantic project,” Lord Hill said.
He added: “If we think in the UK that ultimately economic rationalism will win out in terms of negotiation, that is to misread how the Europeans will approach the negotiation.”