Letter calls for clean break from European Union as it lays out demands for next round of talks
Eurosceptic MPs pile pressure on UK’s premier over Brexit
More than 60 MPs from Theresa May’s ruling Conservative party have laid out their demands for the next round of Brexit talks including that the UK be allowed to sign trade deals immediately after it leaves in March 2019.
A letter signed by Eurosceptic politicians sets the scene for continued clasheswithin the deeply divided ruling party and with the European Union, which has opposed the UK unilaterally signing global trade deals in the aftermath of Brexit.
Mrs May has just eight months to strike a withdrawal deal with the EU but insists that the UK will leave on March 29, 2019.
The government is seeking a transition deal after that date. The existing arrangement is to keep the UK bound by the rules of the EU for a period of about two years but without having any say in setting the regulations that bind the 28-nation body.
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said last month that the UK would be free to negotiate deals but not be able to sign any global trade agreements without the say-so of the EU.
The letter published on Wednesday called on Mrs May to ensure that Britain had “full regulatory autonomy” from the EU as well as being free to negotiate and sign deals with other countries.
The letter emerged before a meeting on Thursday when senior ministers will attempt to thrash out a way forward in negotiations. Other senior figures within the party, including the Chancellor Philip Hammond, oppose a clean break from the EU and want to remain part of a customs union to retain some of the advantages of the world’s largest trading bloc.
The EU has repeatedly asked Mrs Mary to clarify how she sees Britain’s future relationship with the EU, although she is wary of setting out too many details because her party is so divided over the issue.
The opposition Labour Party said the letter exposed the "deep divisions" in the Conservative party. "She is too weak to face down the fanatics in her own party and to deliver a final deal that protects jobs and the economy," said Paul Blomfield, the shadow Brexit minister.