Brexit Minister David Davis is to meet chief EU negotiator Michelle Barnier on Monday, for what the official first day of negotiations.
But, Davies is going to Brussels representing a government with a weaker parliamentary majority, and with little sympathy for a hard Brexit approach. The British industry and public opinion, not to mention members of the British government are having second thoughts on the notion of a “hard Brexit,” while Prime Minister Theresa May is no longer the undisputed leader of the Conservative Party and cannot play a unifying role.
Objections from within
24-hours before formal Brexit negotiations begin, the UK’s finance minister, Philip Hammond, told the BBC that a Custom’s Union agreement with the EU must be secured.
Speaking to the BBC on Sunday, Hammond insisted that the UK should ensure a new customs arrangement that supports jobs and investment. Mr. Hammond wants an agreement that will allow tariff-free access to the Single Market, disrupt freedom of movement, whilst allowing the UK to sign its own trade deals across the world.
Meanwhile, a new poll published on Sunday suggests that only 35% of Britons support the view that “no deal is better than a bad deal,” as reiterated by the Prime Minister Theresa May, while 69% believe the UK should stick to membership of the Customs’ Union.
Public opinion and Stakeholders
In fact, 53% of Britons would favour a second referendum on the UK’s EU membership, according to a Survation poll published by the Mail on Sunday; only 47% favoured a second referendum in April according to the same pollster.
Echoing public opinion, five prominent industry groups called for continued Single Market access on Sunday. The British Chambers of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry, the EEF, the Federation of Small Businesses, and the Institute of Directors wrote an open letter to the British government, underscoring the “economic benefits” of the single market and the three freedoms (goods/services, capital, and people), as well as the customs union, which enables tariff-free trading.
The industry underscores not only the need for “minimal customs formalities,” but also the need of the British economy for access to a skilled workforce.