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UK government distances itself from Brexit strategy memo

  • Published at 10:35 pm November 29th, 2016
UK government distances itself from Brexit strategy memo
The British government on Monday 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 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 Field’s visit to Downing Street or who he had been meeting. “These individual notes do not belong to a government official or a special adviser. They do not reflect the government’s position in relation to Brexit negotiations,” a government spokesperson said. 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. “Keep the two years. Won’t provide more detail. We think it’s unlikely we’ll be offered single market,” the notes read. 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 May has promised to do before the end of March – has also fuelled interest in any snippets of information out of Downing Street.

‘Very French negotiating team’

The notes photographed on Monday and published in British media go into brief detail on negotiating by sector, suggesting a deal on manufacturing will be “relatively straightforward”. 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 an apparent nod to the European Commission’s top Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, a former French minister. “Canada Plus” is scrawled on the notepad, likely referring to the recent trade deal struck between Ottawa and Brussels, while the comment “no Norway” suggests London should not seek membership of the tariff-free European Economic Area as part of its EU exit.