Leaked UK Brexit memo: 'Have cake and eat it'

Government attempts to distance itself after notes are photographed as aide walks into Downing Street

Image Credit: AFP
British Prime Minister Theresa May leaves 10 Downing Street in London.

London: The British government on Monday distanced itself from a memo outlining plans for Brexit spotted as a lawmaker left Downing Street, which included the aim to “have cake and eat it”.

“What’s the model? Have cake and eat it,” read the hand-written paper held by an aide accompanying Mark Field, a London MP for the ruling Conservative Party.

The notes were caught by a photographer as Field left the Department for Exiting the European Union - an office set up in the wake of Britain’s shock June 23 vote to leave the bloc.

The Brexit department would not detail the purpose of Field’s visit to Downing Street or who he had been meeting.

“These individual notes do not belong to a government official or a special adviser. They do not reflect the government’s position in relation to Brexit negotiations,” a government spokesperson told AFP.

The memo suggests Britain will fail to keep access to the European single market and will seek to keep the negotiations to two years, rejecting the idea of a lengthier transitional deal aimed at lessening the sudden impact of leaving the EU.

“Keep the two years. Won’t provide more detail. We think it’s unlikely we’ll be offered single market,” the notes read.

“Transitional - loathe to do it. Whitehall will hold onto it,” the say, referring to the view that pro-EU lawmakers in Britain would seek to make a transitional deal permanent.

More than five months after the referendum, Prime Minister Theresa May has refused to outline the government’s Brexit strategy.

The government’s promise to keep its playing cards close to its chest ahead of starting formal divorce proceedings with Brussels - which May has promised to do before the end of March - has also fuelled interest in any snippets of information out of Downing Street.

‘Very French negotiating team’

The notes photographed on Monday go into brief detail on negotiating by sector, suggesting a deal on manufacturing will be “relatively straightforward”.

“Services harder - because French hoping for business,” is also written, while “French likely to be most difficult” appears further down the page.

Paris is just one of many European cities hoping to attract business away from the City of London financial hub, by promising access to the EU single market and free movement of workers.

“Canada Plus” is scrawled on the notepad, likely referring to the recent trade deal struck between Ottawa and Brussels, while the comment “no Norway” suggests London should not seek membership of the the tariff-free European Economic Area as part of its EU exit.

The notes will prove embarrassing for Downing Street, following a memo leaked earlier this month which claimed the government had no overarching plan for Brexit.

Civil servants are struggling to cope with more than 500 Brexit-related projects and an extra 30,000 extra staff may be needed to handle the workload, according to the memo, reportedly prepared for the government by a consultant.

May’s team denied the claims and said it did not commission the report.

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