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Sacked minister warns of public backlash if government waters down Brexit plans

Emilio Casalicchio

3 min read

Political parties will “reap the whirlwind of public anger” if the Government backslides on key elements of Brexit, an ex-minister recently sacked by Theresa May has warned.

David Jones said any move to keep the UK in the single market or the customs union or subject to the rulings of the European Court of Justice would be a “betrayal”

His calls come amid reports Chancellor Philip Hammond has tried to re-open the question of the UK’s customs union membership, while Labour has mooted staying in the single market.

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has signalled a shift in ministerial tone over Brexit – suggesting a more conciliatory approach towards Remain supporters.

Mr Jones, who was sacked from his post in the Department for Exiting the EU as part of the post-election reshuffle, pressed for the promises in her Lancaster House speech in January to be delivered.

“There are siren calls from proponents of ‘soft Brexit’ for continued UK membership of the single market and customs union. They should not be heeded,” he said in an article for the Sunday Times.

“That would, in reality, be a non-Brexit. Parliament has a duty to the people of this country to respect the clear instructions they have given.

“Pursuing anything less than the restoration of parliamentary sovereignty, the control of our borders and the capacity to strike trade deals with countries across the globe would rightly be seen as a betrayal of trust.

“It would destroy confidence in our political system. All parties would reap the whirlwind of public anger.”

A separate report in the Sunday Times claims Chancellor Mr Hammond was “trying to re-open the customs union argument” at a Cabinet committee meeting on Wednesday.

Earlier this week Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey claimed Britain would have to accept “some element” of free movement in order to retain “impediment-free” access to the single market.

She also said it was ultimately a "moot point" as to whether the UK remains a partial member of the single market after quitting the European Union.


Meanwhile Mr Johnson mocked calls for a ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ Brexit as an argument over a “glorified cheeseboard” and said the UK should push for an “open” withdrawal from the bloc.

In his own Sunday Times article he insisted Britain will not “slam the door on the world” when it leaves the EU.

But a source told the paper members of the Cabinet “will soften the language in public, but not the policy” of keeping to Mrs May’s Lancaster House promises to quit the single market and customs union.

The Foreign Secretary’s comments come as business leaders – including Ocado chairman Stuart Rose and Cobra beer founder Lord Bilimoria – call for a softer approach to Brexit that puts the economy first.

“It is a time for reflecting on how businesses are feeling,” Josh Hardie, the CBI’s deputy director-general, told the Observer.

“It is absolutely clear that for the new government, the priority has got to be putting the economy first.”

Elsewhere, the Sunday Times says Mrs May will on Thursday offer EU leaders to guarantee their citizens’ rights in the UK if they do the same for Brits in their nations.

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