Dozens of Tory Brexiteers send Theresa May negotiating 'suggestions' letter

Posted On: 
21st February 2018

More than 60 Tory MPs have signed a letter to Theresa May demanding she follows through with a 'hard Brexit' that allows the UK to start negotiating trade deals from next year. 

Theresa May speaking in Derby on Monday

The influential European Research Group of MPs, chaired by arch eurosceptic Jacob Rees-Mogg, has set out a series of "suggestions" for how the Prime Minister can best negotiate the UK's exit from the EU. 

They include ensuring that Britain has "full regulatory autonomy" from Brussels, that it can begin negotiating trade deals "immediately" and that ministers should be able to set out "alternative terms" to those set out by European negotiators.

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The UK must be free to start its own trade negotiations immediately," the letter says.

"The UK should negotiate as an equal partner. Ministers may not want or be able to accept the EU's timing and mandates as fixed, and should be able to set out alternative terms including, for example, building an agreement based on our World Trade Organization membership instead."

Among the 62 signatories are former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith, along with former cabinet ministers John Redwood, Owen Paterson and Priti Patel.

The timing of the letter is significant as it comes as Mrs May prepares to meet her so-called Brexit 'war cabinet' at Chequers tomorrow.

It provoked an outcry from pro-European Tories, with Treasury committee chair Nicky Morgan saying: “This isn’t a letter, it is a ransom note. The ERG clearly think they have the prime minister as their hostage.”

Another former Tory minister, Stephen Hammond, told the Times that "any restraint on what the Government does during the transition period must be resisted". 

Shadow Brexit minister Paul Blomfeld said the letter “exposes the deep divisions that run through the heart of this Tory Government".

“On the day David Davis promised the EU that the Government does not want a race to the bottom on standards, the extreme Brexiteers and the European Research Group are calling on Theresa May to do just that," he added.

“It is clearer than ever that Theresa May cannot deliver the Brexit deal Britain needs. She is too weak to face down the fanatics in her own party and to deliver a final deal that protects jobs and the economy.”

Fellow Labour MP Chris Leslie, a supporter of the Open Britain campaign, said the ERG was "brazenly advocating the hardest of hard Brexits".

“With Brextremists on the rampage, people have every right to keep an open mind about whether Brexit is the right choice for our country," he added.