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David Davis confirms Cabinet splits over Theresa May's Brexit strategy

3 min read

Theresa May's senior ministers are split over her approach to Brexit, David Davis has confirmed.

The Brexit Secretary admitted that a special Cabinet sub-committee is yet to sign off on the Prime Minister's so-called "backstop" proposals for avoiding a hard Irish border if negotiations with Brussels fail.

It is understood that Mrs May wants to publish the four-page document, which was circulated among members of her Brexit sub-committee this morning, as early as tomorrow.

But Mr Davis and other Brexiteer ministers are thought to be unhappy that it does not include a final date on which the backstop arrangements would no longer apply.

Speaking in London following a speech in which he warned the EU that it was "shooting itself in the foot" by trying to block the UK from Europe-wide security arrangements, the Brexit Secretary confirmed that no final decision had been reached.

He said: "The detail of this is being discussed at the moment. It's been through one Cabinet commitee, it's going to another one and it will be improper of me to pre-empt the negotiation there but I suspect it will be fairly decisive tomorrow."

Asked if he would have to resign if the backstop document was published without his approval, Mr Davis replied: "That's a question I think for the Prime Minister, to be honest."

Mr Davis said Mrs May "has already made public the fact that we expect to put a time limit on the backstop proposal".

But he added: "It's for a Cabinet committee to decide on that and if they conclude then you'll see it tomorrow, but it's up to them to decide it - it's not my control."

In a further sign of the tensions at the heart of government, the Brexit Secretary also failed to deny reports that he is angry that a White Paper setting out what the UK wants to achieve from its negotiations with Brussels may not be published ahead of a crucial EU summit at the end of June.

The Prime Minister repeatedly refused to say when the White Paper will be published when asked about it in the Commons today.

Mr Davis said: "There's lots of stories about the White Paper and my views. My general response is in debates in Whitehall between fast and slow, I normally vote for fast. That's probably a given.

"What (the Prime Minister) said today is exactly right. The White Paper will be published when it's ready, it's up to quality and it's exactly what we need to say in the public domain. It will not delay the progress of negotiations."

A spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn accused the Government of "incompetence, uncertainty and division".

He said: "It's extremely concerning for the whole country that they are unable to reach agreement among themselves about what their negotiating position is two years after the British people voted to leave the EU."

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