PM will talk to key Euroscep­tics about speech on Bri­tain’s fu­ture out­side EU

The Sunday Telegraph - - Brexit Special - By Christo­pher Hope, Peter Foster and Ben Ri­ley-Smith

THERESA MAY will hold last-minute talks with key Euroscep­tic Cab­i­net min­is­ters this week as she seeks to re­as­sure them about her speech this week on Bri­tain’s fu­ture af­ter Brexit.

Both Boris John­son, the For­eign Sec­re­tary, and Priti Pa­tel, the In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment Sec­re­tary, are likely to dis­cuss the speech with the Prime Min­is­ter on the mar­gins of the United Na­tions gen­eral assem­bly meet­ing in New York in the next few days.

Nei­ther Mr John­son nor Ms Pa­tel were at a meet­ing of a key White­hall Brexit com­mit­tee last week which dis­cussed the main themes of the speech which Mrs May will de­liver in Florence on Fri­day. Mr John­son de­cided to pub­lish his own plans for a suc­cess­ful Brexit in a 4,000 word ar­ti­cle in yes­ter­day’s Daily Tele­graph af­ter he missed the meet­ing be­cause he had to fly to the Caribbean to see the dev­as­ta­tion caused by Hur­ri­cane Irma.

One friend said Mr John­son was “fum­ing” that the com­mit­tee met with­out him, say­ing “it is full of the Re­main- ers dis­cussing the speech, the di­rec­tion of travel” with­out in­put from key Brex­i­teers. The long-form ar­ti­cle, which Tory MPs de­scribed as a speech in its pa­tri­otic tone and swelling rhetoric, set out his vi­sion for Brexit. Drafts had been worked on by a core group of friends and ad­vis­ers since July. Much of the For­eign Sec­re­tary’s phrase­ol­ogy was taken from speeches he has been de­liv­er­ing at his reg­u­lar in­for­mal meet­ings of up to 20 Tory MPs.

Mrs May’s own 5,000 word speech sets out her vi­sion for Bri­tain af­ter Brexit and is billed as the fol­low-up to her Lan­caster House speech in Jan­uary which set out her Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tion plans. Her con­cern will be that if she does not go as far as Mr John­son in her de­mands then she will be ac­cused of try­ing to soften the im­pact of Brexit.

The Prime Min­is­ter is al­ready fac­ing de­mands from Euroscep­tic min­is­ters not to name how much Bri­tain will pay in a Brexit “di­vorce bill” be­cause it will be seen as a “be­trayal” by Brexit vot­ers.

Front­benchers who backed Brexit are un­der­stood to fear rep­u­ta­tional dam­age if they are forced to de­fend pay­ments worth tens of bil­lions of pounds to the EU. Mrs May is un­der­stood to be con­sid­er­ing say­ing she will sup­port a two-year tran­si­tion deal which would see Brexit changes phased in for a lim­ited pe­riod af­ter the UK for­mally leaves the EU in March 2019. The Prime Min­is­ter is also set to sig­nal that the UK will con­tinue pay­ments into Brus­sels dur­ing some or all of that pe­riod to re­tain ac­cess to the sin­gle mar­ket and cus­toms union. With the UK’s net pay­ments run­ning at €10bil­lion (£8.8bil­lion) a year, a two or three-year tran­si­tion could mean pay­ing €20-€30bil­lion, even be­fore other out­stand­ing is­sues are re­solved.

Mrs May is ex­pected to re­as­sure the other 27 EU mem­bers states that Bri­tain will not en­gage in a reg­u­la­tory “race to the bot­tom” af­ter Brexit. The shape and di­rec­tion of the speech was con­firmed to The Sun­day Tele­graph by two se­nior White­hall of­fi­cials, while not­ing that there was still am­ple time for changes be­fore de­liv­ery as in­ter­nal de­bate in Cab­i­net con­tin­ued. One source said it was clear that Mrs May was now shift­ing closer to em­brac­ing what is be­ing called a “high align­ment model” with Europe, at least in the medium term.

This would mean mir­ror­ing ex­ist­ing ar­range­ments with the EU in or­der to give the UK time to de­velop a global trade strat­egy. “Brex­i­teers have to con­sider that too sharp and rad­i­cal a rup­ture with the EU risks caus­ing chaos and de­stroy­ing pub­lic sup­port for Brexit. This way we would def­i­nitely be leav­ing, but one step at a time,” said a source with knowl­edge of the UKU strat­egy.

How­ever, the Brexit “di­vorce b bill” re­mains the big­gest point of con­tention. Brus­sels wants “suf­fi­cient progress” to be made on the money be­fore both sides can dis­cuss a free trade deal. Se­nior EU of­fi­cials are as­sum­ing Mrs May will make a sub­stan­tial pol­icy re­set to break the cur­rent talks dead­lock.

‘Brex­i­teers have to con­sider sider that too sharp a rup­ture re with the EU risks de­stroy­ing oy­ing pub­lic sup­port for Brexit’xit’

Mrs May is fac­ing de­mands from some Euroscep­tics not to re­veal how much Bri­tain will pay in a Brexit ‘di­vorce bill’

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