UK Prime Minister Theresa May is preparing what she hopes will be a series of unifying speeches on Brexit over the next few weeks.
Britain is hoping to seal a transition deal next month to smooth its exit from the EU, but the European Commission said last week that a transition deal was not a certainty and that London needed to clarify what it wanted from the EU.
The EU released a document last Wednesday, which included a “toolbox” of sanctions to “avoid foul play” by the British government during the transition period once the divorce is made final.
The British Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, David Davies, denounced the plan with virulence, telling the media, “I do not think that it demonstrated integrity to publish this document using language which was frankly discourteous, implying that the EU could arbitrarily end the transition period.” Davies added, “Publishing the document demonstrates both dishonesty and a lack of wisdom.”
The draft text is attempting to fix the rules imposed upon the United Kingdom for the transition period after it leaves the EU on March 29, 2019. The text anticipates the possibility of sanctions, in particular, “a mechanism enabling the Union to suspend certain benefits for the United Kingdom, flowing from its involvement in the Single Market.”
This clause, included in the form of a note to the draft agreement, was added when negotiations resumed in Brussels on February 6.
The addition had provoked anger on the part of several Conservative British MPs. On February 7, Bernard Jenkin, an influential Conservative MP said on the BBC, “These idiotic threats show the full extent of the European Union’s fears.
Remaining within the Single Market will enable the United Kingdom to continue trading freely with other EU member states, whilst not having customs controls in place during the transition period.
May’s first speech, to be delivered at a conference in Munich next Saturday, will set out the security relationship Britain wants with the EU. She will deliver another, setting out Britain’s future partnership, although a date for that has yet to be confirmed.
Foreign Minister Boris Johnson, a leading Brexit advocate, will begin the ‘Road to Brexit’ series with a speech on Wednesday, described by May’s office as a “rallying cry to those on both sides of the Brexit debate”.
As well as facing pressure from Brussels, May also needs to unite a cabinet and Conservative party, still deeply split between those who voted for Brexit in 2016 and those who didn‘t, behind a single vision for Britain’s future outside the European Union.
Davies will outline how Britain’s businesses can maintain their global reputation after Brexit in an as-yet-unscheduled speech.
A BMG poll on Sunday for the Independent showed 74 % of Britons were unclear about May’s overall Brexit strategy.