LONDON – A detailed Brexit strategy dossier will be produced in the coming weeks, the British government said Wednesday, amid accusations that cabinet divisions are holding up negotiations with the EU.
Brexit Secretary David Davis said the so-called White Paper would include “detailed, ambitious and precise explanations” of the government’s positions ahead of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union in March 2019.
“It will communicate our ambition for the U.K.’s future relationship with the EU, in the context of our vision for the U.K.’s future role in the world,” he said.
The paper, which will reportedly run to about 100 pages, will be published ahead of an EU summit at the end of June.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s government has yet to decide what trading ties after Britain leaves the EU’s single market and customs union will look like.
She is trying to balance demands to protect existing jobs and trade with the bloc, and the desire to forge a new independent trade policy.
The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, this week said that “no significant progress” has been made since EU leaders last met at the end of March, and warned that key issues must be resolved before next month’s summit.
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told May that if she could not decide on the way forward, he would take over.
“The government is so busy negotiating with itself that it cannot negotiate with anybody else,” he told lawmakers in the House of Commons.
“We’ve had 23 months since the referendum. We have just 10 months to complete negotiations and the government is in complete disarray,” he added.
May repeated her three objectives — to pursue an independent trade policy, ensure as frictionless trade with the EU as possible and avoid disruption between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
She admitted that achieving these “is not easy, it is difficult” but insisted that only her government will deliver on the 2016 referendum vote to leave the EU.
Senior ministers met on Tuesday to discuss the government’s options for future customs arrangements, but failed once again to agree.
To complicate matters further, Davis has reportedly told May her favored model would be illegal under international law.
The Times reported that the attorney general — the government’s top lawyer — has been asked to provide an urgent legal opinion on both proposals before a decision is taken.
May’s preferred option is for Britain to collect tariffs on behalf of the EU on goods destined for the bloc, while imposing British tariffs on those staying inside the country.
The alternative, backed by hardline Brexiteers, would use technology to reduce the need for customs checks.
Downing Street has admitted both proposals need work.