Cabinet ministers ‘did not agree’ to Theresa May transition period strategy

Posted On: 
22nd February 2018

Theresa May has angered Cabinet ministers by signing off on Britain’s negotiating strategy for the transition period after Brexit.

The Government's position has been criticised by Tory Brexiteers
PA Images

The draft of the UK’s negotiating position frustrated senior eurosceptics after it revealed the transition should be as long as is necessary to put in place arrangements for the future UK-EU relationship.

The leaked document, revealed yesterday morning, suggests the Government is still aiming for a two-year transition period, but it leaves the door open for negotiations to go on longer than December 2020.

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The clash comes as Mrs May’s Brexit inner cabinet meet for an away day at Chequers to thrash out a deal on Britain’s future relationship with the EU, where talks are expected to go on late into the evening.

A Government spokesman told the Telegraph that the Brexit Cabinet sub-committee had signed off the transition period stance at a meeting in January, but not the legal text sent to EU nations.

A source added: "Every policy detail was signed off at a meeting of the Brexit Cabinet last month. In addition, the precise legal text was circulated in advance of publication."

However the paper reports today that allies of Liam Fox told them the document was a "draft of a draft" and has not been agreed by the ministers.

Meanwhile a cabinet minister told PoliticsHome."The full cabinet have never discussed, let alone agreed it."

"You can't keep everyone happy but I don't think the solution is making everyone unhappy".

Meanwhile senior Tory eurosceptics are said to find the document "deeply troubling" and have urged the Prime Minister to disown it.

Former cabinet minister, Iain Duncan-Smith told the Telegraph: "I am deeply concerned that a policy document turns out not to be an agreed government position.

“There are genuinely deep concerns about policy areas, particularly around not being able to sign trade deals."

The interventions come after dozens of Tory MPs signed Jacob Rees-Mogg’s letter of hard Brexit demands, including "full regulatory autonomy" from Brussels and an ability to sign trade deals within the transition period.

The prominent backbencher launched a fresh swipe at the latest revelations, saying the draft position represents "Brexit in name only" and is a "perversion of democracy".

"It has been disowned by ministers as not representing government policy. Concern over lost control over migration was a significant issue in the referendum,” he wrote. 

"Whoever compiled this document proposes no changes to it for an indefinite period and would thereby let down millions of voters for whom this was an important issue."


Elsewhere, The Times reports that ministers are to delay Commons votes on the customs union for up to two months amid fears that they could lead to defeats that threaten Brexit negotiations.

The Prime Minister is said to be facing rebellions from both pro-EU and Brexiteer MPs which could tie her hands on future EU customs arrangements if successful.

Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke are reportedly attempting to keep Britain in the customs union by tabling amendments to the Taxation (Cross-Border Trade) Bill, also known as the customs bill or trade bill.

Meanwhile Brexiteers were set to rebel against a clause in the trade bill that would allow ministers to negotiate “a customs union between the UK and the country or territory”.