10 Downing Street: No “off the shelf” Transitional Period
On Monday, a spokesperson from 10 Downing Street, outlined that Britain will not look for an “off the shelf” model for a transitional period, completely contradicting Philip Hammond and Amber Rudd: “There were reports last week that we were looking for an off-the-shelf model, we are not looking for an off-the-shelf model. Precisely what the implementation model will look like is up for negotiation.”
Last week, home secretary, Amber Rudd, suggested that the current immigration regime would not be changed during a transitional period of up to three years once Brexit is in effect.
Backing up Rudd’s plans, chancellor Philip Hammond said on Friday that the transitional period would be “business as usual” before new migration and trades regulations are put in place. Hammond said that there would be a registration system put in place for people coming into the UK after Brexit. "If they come here to work after we leave the European Union, during that transitional period, the sensible approach will be to seek to register people so that we know who's coming and who's going," he said.
Both Rudd and Hammond, who backed the Remain campaign during last year’s EU referendum, made the announcements while the two main Leave campaign figures, John and Fox were abroad. Boris Johnson visited Australia, while Liam Fox attended a two-day trip to Washington to discuss a UK-US trade agreement.
In what seemed to have been an attack against Rudd and Hammond and further highlighting growing tension within the Conservative party, former Brexit minister, David Jones, told the Telegraph: “They [Fox and Johnson] are clearly being kept out of the loop. We have senior ministers now putting forward in public what appears to be a negotiating position that should be done behind closed doors.”
“It shouldn’t be flagged up in advance. It is at the very least disrespectful, at the very worst it looks as if someone is trying to bounce the Government into a position that not all senior members of the Government are happy with,” he continued.
Jones also stated that pro-EU Tories were trying to put in place measures while Theresa May is on holiday and parliament being in recess for the summer. “No sooner is the prime minister on holiday and parliament away for the summer, that Europhile forces in cabinet decide it’s a good time to go on maneuvers.” Jones said
Liam Fox himself also spoke out about the transitional period, stating that any extension of existing migration regulations after Brexit has taken effect, would “not keep the faith” with the referendum result.
In an interview with the Sunday Times, Fox quashed claims that the cabinet had reached an agreement that the free movement of EU citizens over three years after Brexit would be part of any transitional deal. “If there have been discussions on that, I have not been party to them,” he said. “I have not been involved in any discussion on that, nor have I signified my agreement to anything like that,” Fox noted.
As well as denying any involvement in the migration plans, Liam Fox stated that the British public voted to regain control of “our borders” in last year’s referendum. “We made it clear that control of our own borders was one of the elements we wanted in the referendum, and unregulated free movement would seem to me not to keep faith with that decision,” he said.
So far, Boris Johnson is yet to comment on Amber Rudd’s and Philip Hammond’s announcements.
Philip Hammond was not without his allies. Supporting the chancellor’s transitional plans, pro-EU Conservative MP, Sir Nicholas Soames said: “He has restored discipline to the political infant class who want Brexit at any cost. Instead of mindlessly criticising him, they should thank him for putting a stop to what was in danger of becoming a pub brawl.”
Boris Johnson might not have publicly commented on his views of the transitional plans, however Gerard Lyons, Johnson’s former economic adviser while he was mayor of London, said that the transitional period should be no more than two years. In the Sunday Telegraph, Lyons said: “Many of the ‘risks’ being highlighted about Brexit are perceived risks, not real risks. And a two-year transition would alleviate many concerns.”
Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable ruffled a few parliamentary feathers when he stated that this latest episode of Tory infighting showed “all the signs of a cabinet in a state of civil war.” He added that this latest inter-party spat revealed a “deep, unbridgeable chasm between the Brexit fundamentalist and pragmatists.”
Cable, who his party and himself want a second EU referendum, suggested that there have been utterings of the foreign secretary resigning. “There is no cabinet consensus for moderation. And the rumours of Boris Johnson being about to resign fuel the uncertainty.”
In response to Cable’s suggestion that Johnson is looking to resign, a spokesperson for the foreign secretary said that the Lib Dem leader was “making his stuff up and maybe he should take more time to think up some policies rather than wasting his time on peddling lies.”
In attempt to sugarcoat the noticeable divisions within the party, health secretary Jeremy Hunt told Radio 4’s Today Programme on Monday that the cabinet is united on delivering a Brexit deal that would give Britain back control of its borders, law and finance, which would require a transitional period of no more than three years. "We want Brexit to make Britain more global, and not more insular," he said. "That means that it has to be a Brexit that works for business, it has to work for the NHS, the NHS needs to recruit doctors and nurses from all over Europe and that is going to continue after we leave the European Union," he added
It’s quite clear that the Conservative party are not singing from the same hymn sheet, but they need to. Petty differences need to be left at the door and they need to deliver a Brexit deal that will be in the interest for the whole of Britain, not half. Both Remain and Leave need to unite to ensure a smooth transition into the unknown that is Brexit.