Cabinet ‘Remoaners’ Win Freedom of Movement Battle – Will Continue for 5 Years
A senior source told The Guardian last night that the British cabinet has accepted that free movement of people for up to four or five years after Britain leaves the EU will be part of a Brexit transition deal.
As the EU chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, underlined the need for clarity on the British side at the end of the latest round of exit negotiations, soft Brexiters in the cabinet are now confident they have achieved a consensus about an “off the shelf” transition deal.
The claim that a collective view has been reached comes after weeks of a brutal briefing war over competing visions of Brexit since the general election wiped out Theresa May’s majority, culminating in the prime minister’s admonition this week that there is ‘no such thing as an unsackable minister’, and sowing confusion in Brussels about the reliability of the British negotiating position.
But as David Davis concluded Brexit talks in Brussels on Thursday, the senior cabinet source said that the mood has shifted significantly and that ministers now hoped to agree a deal as soon as possible to give certainty to British business.
‘If you ask business when they want to see it agreed, they’d say tomorrow,’ the source said, adding that such a deal could last between two and four years and could be expected to involve continued free movement of people. The source felt the most likely scenario was a deal lasting three years.
While Davis was in Brussels, May was hosting business leaders in Downing Street to hear their concerns about Brexit, in the latest sign that the government is keener to listen since the general election.
A No 10 spokesman said:
‘The prime minister reiterated that the government’s overarching goal is for a smooth, orderly exit culminating in a comprehensive free trade deal with the EU, with a period of implementation in order to avoid any cliff-edges.’
Business groups have repeatedly stressed their desire for a transitional deal, with the CBI suggesting continued membership of the single market and the customs union, until new trading arrangements can be put in place.
Some cabinet ministers, including Michael Gove, had been resistant to a formal transition period after Brexit day. But the new environment secretary and key leave campaigner is now reluctantly signed up, after being confronted with the reality of the risks of a “cliff-edge Brexit” for his department.
David Davis, the Brexit secretary, has publicly softened his approach in recent weeks, telling a House of Lords select committee that “practicalities” would force a need for a transition period.
Westmonster Dave is the editor of alt-politics.com