Pro-Brexit politicians in Theresa May’s Conservative Party are launching a rival plan for leaving the European Union in an effort to force her to ditch her own blueprint in favour of a cleaner break with the bloc.
Former Brexit Secretary David Davis, who quit in July because he disagreed with May, is backing the proposal published by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think tank, which recommends preparing a “more aggressive” strategy for the EU negotiations, and opening trade talks with other countries around the world.
To unblock negotiations, the UK could propose a stripped down “basic free-trade agreement” with the EU for goods, allowing more time to work on a better deal during the two-year transition period that will follow Brexit day in March, the think tank said in the report. May’s plan to stay close to EU regulations and bound to the bloc’s customs rules will damage growth and waste the opportunities presented by Brexit, it said.
“The opportunity before the UK as a result of Brexit is huge: but if we squander it, the ‘new normal’ of limited economic growth will prevail, with an EU system that is failing to respond to the challenges of the modern economy,” it said. “The UK running its own economy will not render a deal with the EU impossible. It will bring back real growth, let the UK do other trade deals, and create leverage to get positive results from EU negotiations.”
The study, titled “Plan A+—Creating a Prosperous Post-Brexit UK,” will add fuel to the Tory revolt against May’s so-called Chequers plan for a close “free trade area” with the EU. Davis and former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson both quit the Cabinet in July because they believed May’s proposal was fatally flawed and would tie the UK’s hands.
Instead, they’ve both argued for a more streamlined agreement based on the EU’s recent deal with Canada. May says this isn’t good enough and would put jobs and peace in Northern Ireland at risk. But her own plan is in trouble after EU leaders rejected key parts of it at a summit last week in Salzburg.