British government distances itself from Brexit strategy memo
THE British government distanced itself from a memo outlining plans for Brexit spotted as a lawmaker left Downing Street, which included the aim to “have cake and eat it”.
“What’s the model? Have cake and eat it,” read the hand-written paper held by an aide accompanying Mark Field, a London MP for the ruling Conservative Party.
The notes were caught by a photographer as Mr Field left the Department for Exiting the European Union – an office set up in the wake of Britain’s shock June 23 vote to leave the bloc.
The Brexit department would not detail the purpose of Mr Field’s visit to Downing Street or who he had been meeting.
The memo suggests Britain will fail to keep access to the European single market and will seek to keep the negotiations to two years, rejecting the idea of a lengthier transitional deal aimed at lessening the sudden impact of leaving the EU.
More than five months after the referendum, Prime Minister Theresa May has refused to outline the government’s Brexit strategy.
The government’s promise to keep its playing cards close to its chest ahead of starting formal divorce proceedings with Brussels – which Ms May has promised to do before the end of March – has also fuelled interest in any snippets of information out of Downing Street.
The notes photographed and published in British media go into brief detail on negotiating by sector, suggesting a deal on manufacturing will be “relatively straightforward”.
“Services harder – because French hoping for business”, is also written, while “French likely to be most difficult” appears further down the page.
Paris is just one of many European cities hoping to attract business away from the City of London financial hub, by promising access to the EU single market and free movement of workers.
The memo also mentions a “very French negotiating team”, in a nod to the European Commission’s top Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, a former French minister.
The notes will prove embarrassing for Downing Street, following a memo leaked earlier this month which claimed the government had no overarching plan for Brexit.
Civil servants are struggling to cope with more than 500 Brexit-related projects and an extra 30,000 extra staff may be needed to handle the workload, the memo said. –