Theresa May 'held to ransom’ by Brexiteers' letter of demands

Theresa May 'held to ransom’ by Brexiteers' letter of demands
A band of Conservative MPs have compiled a list of their Brexit demands for Prime Minister Theresa May. The letter, which calls for “full regulatory autonomy” has been described by the signatories’ opponents as a “ransom note.”

62 MPs, including Jacob Rees-Mogg and members of the party’s Brexit-backing European Research Group (ERG), have provided Theresa May with a letter outlining six ‘suggestions’ ahead of upcoming negotiations with the EU and a meeting on Thursday of the key Brexit sub-committee of senior ministers at Chequers, the country house of the Prime Minister, on Thursday.

The letter sets out the MPs’ “continued, strong backing” for the vision set out in May’s Lancaster House speech in January 2017.

“We also want to share some suggestions for how it could be achieved,” they wrote in the letter.

“The UK must be free to start its own trade negotiations immediately.

“The UK should negotiate as an equal partner.

“Ministers may not want or be able to accept the EU’s timing and mandates as fixed, and should be able to set out alternative terms including, for example, building an agreement based on our World Trade Organization membership instead.”

The letter has drawn criticism from other Conservative MPs. “ERG clearly think they have the prime minister as their hostage,” said MP Nicky Morgan, an advocate for a soft Brexit.

“This isn’t a letter, it is a ransom note,” she said.

The letter was sent to the prime minister, along with Brexit Secretary David Davis, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, and Chief Whip Julian Smith.

Sam Lowe, a trade expert at the Centre for European Reform, told the Guardian: “A standstill transition is in everyone’s interest and absolutely essential if the government is serious about negotiating a mutually beneficial ongoing relationship between the EU and UK.

“In trying to undermine that the ERG are asking the government to sacrifice the economy on the altar of ideology.”

Labour told the BBC that the letter “exposes the deep divisions that run through the heart of this Tory government.”

A Downing Street source said simply: “We welcome contributions from across the party.”

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