The “Britain stronger in Europe” campaign is being re-branded and will relaunch as “Open Britain” to push for a deal in which the UK is open for business trading and investment. The group, which is backed by a cross-party cohort of politicians, has more than 500,000 registered supporters from the Brexit referendum campaign. When Prime Minister Theresa May stated that “Brexit means Brexit”, for us in the legal profession it didn’t mean much, because no one knows what Brexit will look like. There is no precedent for the EU to grant Single Market access without free movement. Theresa May stated that she will not give MPs a vote before triggering Article 50, the mechanism that starts the clock on Brexit negotiations.
A briefing note from the House of Commons library highlights the huge number of decisions the British Government will have to take about its future relationship with the EU. Ministers appear to have taken a stance on the best deal Britain can hope to strike, with the Chancellor Philip Hammond stressing the importance of retaining access to the Single Market. Meanwhile, Liam Fox and David Davis, both of whom will have key roles in the negotiations process, are thought to prefer the “Go it alone approach”.
Politicians want to have their say on the deal the UK Government wish to secure for us. Barry Gardner, the Labour Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade, Energy and Climate Change, has said that Parliament could not be sidelined from the greatest constitutional change the country has debated in 40 years. He thinks there is no logic in the Prime Minister triggering Article 50 without first setting out to Parliament the terms and basis upon which her Government seeks to negotiate. Owen Smith, the leadership candidate for Labour who sought to make the EU a dividing line between him and Jeremy Corbyn, accused the Prime Minister of running scared from Parliamentary scrutiny of her Brexit negotiations. Smith has argued that the Brexit deal itself should be put to the public vote through a second referendum or general election, while Corbyn has argued that the outcome of the June vote has to mean Brexit.
The German Economy Minister, Mr Gabriel, has said that Britain must not be able to keep the ‘nice things’ that come with EU membership without taking responsibility for the fallout from Brexit. Gabriel warned that if the issue was badly handled by Theresa May, other member countries will follow Britain’s lead and “Europe would go down the drain.”
It is safe to state that there are potential divisions in the British government. However, Theresa May has agreed with her Cabinet that restricting Immigration will be a red line in negotiations. So it is likely that, pushing ahead with article 50, with no need for a parliamentary vote, setting restrictions on freedom of movement, will end Britain’s membership of the Single Market, and restrictions on immigration to the UK will follow.