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22 Aug, 2017 15:06

Widespread Conservative confusion feeds govt’s baffling Brexit stance

Widespread Conservative confusion feeds govt’s baffling Brexit stance

The Brexit vote was meant to rid the Conservatives of their crippling divisions over Europe once and for all, but the ideological battles continue to rage and the party of government still can’t find a common position.

The confused myriad of mixed messages spluttering from the Tory camp since Brexit negotiations began appear to have the Tory party, and it supporters, absolutely baffled.

On the one side are those who claim talks are going well and that Britain is the “innovative” and “productive” side in the divorce, while others believe the UK is heading for disaster.

This week, former Chancellor George Osborne warned the EU is holding all the trump cards when it comes to negotiating exactly how the split is going to happen.

The former MP and editor of the London Evening Standard, who was an outspoken ‘Remainer’ during Britain’s EU referendum, said the UK lost its advantage from the very beginning.

Osborne said claiming ‘no deal would be better than a bad deal’ before performing a giant U-turn on that idea was Prime Minister Theresa May’s biggest mistake.

Osborne accused May’s Brexit team of handing Brussels “the upper hand.”

“You start with this basic error in the Brexit campaign which was that somehow the EU needed us more than we need the EU when the truth is we both need each other,” he said.

“We need a transitional period, Britain is not ready to crash out of the EU in spring 2019.”

However, the party has been pushing out positive messages about the Brexit team, headed by David Davis.

Leading the charge of positivity are a range of think pieces coming from the Spectator magazine. The de-facto in-house magazine of the Tory party insists it is Britain that has the upper hand.

Perhaps that was the message from Theresa May, who was guest of honor at the magazine’s traditional summer garden party.

A string of editorials explain why the EU “clearly” has more to gain from cutting a deal with the UK. Exhibit A are figures showing that the EU exports £116 billion (US$150 billion) worth of goods a year to Britain, compared to the £57 billion of goods which go the other way.

Matthew Lynn wrote: “The UK, far from being the confused, divided and weak partner is the side coming up with the interesting innovative ideas. And it is the EU that looks shackled to a rigid, out-dated structure.”

New ideas springing out of the Brexit negotiating team in Westminster include computerized checks on trucks traveling between Dover and Calais, and tax being collected automatically to ensure fewer delays.

The idea from David Davis that goods and services exports and imports should be treated in the same way won high praise from the Tories. The response from Brussels was muted.

Lynn wrote: “Meanwhile the EU sticks to an increasingly rigid, old-fashioned ideological set of rules. Which of those two models is more likely to succeed in the 2020s? I know which one I’d put my money on.”

The Tory party’s infighting appears to go right to the heart of government. Brexit secretary Davis and Chancellor Philip Hammond have been at loggerheads according to reports.

Hammond clashed with his fellow cabinet minister on the small matter of trade, business and free movement.

On Monday, it was reported Hammond has also been facing off with arch Brexiteer and current Environment Secretary Michael Gove over the one subject that really gets passions running in the EU debate: who gets access to Britain’s fish?