Theresa May to face MPs amid 'confused' Brexit strategy Birmingham Mail
Prime Minister Theresa May will face a grilling from MPs today amid concerns that the Government is struggling to agree a strategy for Brexit.
The PM has distanced herself from Brexit Secretary David Davis’s suggestion that it is “very improbable” the UK can regain control over its own borders while remaining part of the European single market.
The apparent rebuke sparked concerns that ministers are “confused” and cannot agree policy on leaving the European Union, and Mrs May is expected to face questions on the issue after delivering a Commons statement on the G20 summit in China.
The conundrum of how to maintain the economic benefits of single market membership while also ending free movement of EU citizens – seen by many as incompatible positions – has become central to the debate over how to deliver Brexit.
Mr Davis made his remarks on the single market during a lengthy Commons speech on Monday which MPs derided as “waffle” and “empty platitudes”, and Mrs May can expect to face calls for more detail.
Despite Mr Davis’s comment being made from the despatch box – where ministers are expected to speak on behalf of the Government – the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said he was expressing a personal opinion rather than official policy.
She said Mrs May maintained an “open mind” about what could be secured from negotiations with the remaining 27 member states under Article 50 of the European Union treaties, and planned to be “ambitious” in her stance.
Mrs May can also expect to face questions over how Britain will control immigration after exiting the EU.
During her visit to China, she ruled out the introduction of an Australian-style points-based system for immigration policy as proposed by the Leave campaign, saying it was ”not a silver bullet” to reduce the numbers coming to the UK.
But her spokeswoman poured cold water on suggestions that she has instead plumped for a work permit system which would require EU nationals to secure a job offer before coming to settle in the UK.
MPs may also quiz Mrs May on a new UK-Australia working group to focus on “scoping out” a free trade agreement between the two countries.
Announced by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox and his Australian counterpart Steven Ciobo, its agenda will also include “trade policy issues of mutual interest” such as World Trade Organisation processes and potential new trade blocs including other countries.
Mr Ciobo said a trade deal with the UK can only happen “when the time is right”, adding that it may not be for another three years if, as has been suggested, Article 50 is not triggered until next year.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “My formal advice is that, and this is from the UK side, the UK is unable to negotiate or sign an agreement prior to the formal exit from the EU.
“We can certainly have preliminary discussions and that’s part of what I’m doing here this week. Preliminary discussions around what a post-Brexit Australia-UK trade deal might look like.
“Some discussions about what our ambitions and aspirations are and there’s been good alignment in terms of those conversations.”