Britain’s Chancellor Phillip Hammond is drafting detailed plans for a “soft Brexit” whereby Britain will retain associate membership of the single market, foregoing the opportunity to forge her own bilateral trade deals.
Under his bespoke plans, Mr Hammond hopes Britain would be able to strike independent deals on trade involving services, Whitehall insiders have told The Telegraph.
But he believes that Britain should sacrifice its ability to negotiate deals on the trade of goods, insisting that remaining within the European single market on an associate membership basis would protect British jobs.
“The UK would negotiation associate membership of the customs union but keep the freedom to negotiate on services – which is the much more important part of the UK economy,” said a source.
Arriving at a meeting of EU finance ministers in Luxembourg on Thursday, Mr Hammond signalled his ongoing loyalty to the Remainer causes, telling his colleagues: “My clear view, and I believe the view of the majority of people in Britain, is we should prioritise protecting jobs, protecting economic growth and protecting prosperity.”
His European counterparts are likely to welcome such a deal being put forward, as EU member states run a surplus trade on goods entering the UK, which would be uninterrupted under his plans.
However, it is unclear how much support Mr Hammond’s plans have within the British negotiating team.
The Prime Minister, Theresa May, and Secretary of State for International Trade, Liam Fox, have recently confirmed the appointment of the experienced trade negotiator Crawford Falconer. His role will be to “develop and negotiate free trade agreements and market access deals with non-EU countries”, they said in a statement, suggesting that the government plans to leave the single market following Brexit.
That will come as welcome news to Brexiteers, who have insisted that any form of a ‘soft Brexit’ merely undermines the purpose of leaving the EU.
Writing for Brexit Central, John Longworth, formerly Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce and current Co-Chairman of Leave Means Leave said: “The EEA, EFTA, Single Market and Customs Union membership all subvert the ingredients of Brexit in varying combinations, by restricting economic freedoms, free trade arrangements (FTAs) around the world, the unilateral removal of external tariffs, deregulation, restriction of costly migrants, along with the requirements for financial contribution, all thereby undermining the fantastic opportunity Brexit presents.
“They also dilute the constitutional basis of Brexit by imposing the continuing interference of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) – the operation of extra-territorial law-making beyond our Parliament and the removal of our ability to control our borders.
“In fact, in varying degrees they sour the very notion of Brexit to the extent that they are not Brexit at all, but pass themselves off as such. Such a “con” by the purveyors of “snake oil” would be a fraud on the electorate of monumental proportions.”