Brexiters and Remainers in Cabinet Go to War over ‘Transition’ Period

(L-R) Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox, British Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond, British foreign secretary Boris Johnson
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The fragile truce established between Remainers and Brexit supporters has shattered in a matter of days, as the Foreign Secretary and International Trade Secretary prepare to oppose the lengthy “transition deal” agreed by Brexit Secretary David Davis under pressure from Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond.

‘Remainer Phil’ and Dr. Liam Fox put their names to a joint article promising a clean Brexit from the EU’s Customs Union, Single Market, and associated Free Movement immigration regime at the weekend. But within hours, Government ministers were briefing that the truce would not hold because Hammond holds his Brexit-supporting colleague “in contempt”.

True to these predictions, news a day later appeared to confirm that the Brexit Secretary was proposing a so-called “transition deal” with the EU which would see Britain remain inside the Customs Union — or something very much like it — for as many as three years after the country’s formal departure from the EU in 2019, presumably at Hammond’s urging.

This could potentially scupper the “very big, very powerful” U.S. trade deal the trade secretary has been negotiating with the Trump administration, and endangering other deals which the foreign secretary has been supporting.

However, according to The Sun newspaper, “a source close to Boris and Dr. Fox” is insisting that “No length of time had been signed off by the Cabinet for the transition period yet, so it’s utterly wrong of Hammond and Davis to be waving around two or three years.”

The source went on to promise there will be “very big trouble ahead if [Hammond and Davis] carry on like this.”

Fox and Johnson “see one year as the maximum period we would ever need. There is a world out there waiting for us, and we need to get on with embracing it.”

Brexit campaign leader and LBC host Nigel Farage said the Government’s willingness to submit to a lengthy transition deal was “a big victory for the European Commission” and a display of “great weakness” by the Tory administration.

The former UKIP supermo warned that Europhile lobbyists and big business which derive certain benefits from the EU and its lax migration regime “will argue at the end of this transition that [there] should be a further three years, and we might find ourselves ten years down the road from Brexit having not got what we wanted, because there’s no doubt that during this transitional period the Free Movement of People will continue, the European Court of Justice will go on having judgements over British business, and of course we’ll go on paying a membership fee”.

He added: “None of these three things are acceptable to Brexit voters in any way at all.”

There is something of a precedent for “transitional” arrangements with the European Union becoming permanent in the form of the European Economic Area (EEA), which partially incorporated Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein into the EU in preparation those countries being incorporated into the bloc.

This process was halted by popular referendums in which the public voted against EU membership, but the countries’ Europhile political class kept the EEA in being, in the hope that they would be able to persuade their electorates to vote the other way at a more auspicious moment.

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