EU wants power to cut UK market access during Brexit transition

Brussels could rapidly restrict the UK's access to the European Union's single market if the terms of a transition deal are breached under plans set out in a leaked document.

In a move likely to further infuriate Tory Brexiteers, a draft text setting out the terms for a transitional deal after the UK leaves the bloc indicated the EU would have power to impose the punitive measures on Britain without a court judgment.

A copy of the text obtained by reporters in Brussels said there should be a "mechanism" allowing the EU to "suspend certain benefits" of single market membership during the transition period without necessarily having to resort to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

A footnote from the leaked EU position paper on a Brexit transition deal.
A footnote from the leaked EU position paper on a Brexit transition deal.

Such a move would be considered if referring the matter to the ECJ "would not bring in time the necessary remedies", according to the document, which sets out the EU's position on a transition deal in legal language.

The document also said the UK would only be "consulted" when decisions are made on fishing quotas during the period.

Whitehall attempted to play down the significance of the draft text, insisting it would form the basis for a negotiation.

A Department for Exiting the European Union spokesman said: "This is a draft document produced by the EU that simply reflects their stated directives.

"The Secretary of State set out the UK's position in his speech in Teesside last month.

"Together these provide a solid foundation for the negotiations on the implementation period which have begun this week with the aim of reaching agreement by March European Council."

The developments came as Theresa May prepared to chair the Brexit "war cabinet" in sessions on Wednesday and Thursday to thrash out the UK's position on crunch issues regarding the future relationship with Brussels.

The Prime Minister sidestepped questions about rising Tory tensions on Brexit and calls for her to "sling out" arch-Leavers by insisting her party is focused on "one very clear act" of leaving the EU.

She refused to directly engage with a question on whether she would like vocal Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg to be more circumspect, after pro-EU Tory MP Anna Soubry claimed the Government was "in hock to 35 hard ideological Leavers" like the pair.

The ex-business minister threatened to quit the party if the Brexiteers "take over", ratcheting up pressure on the PM ahead of Wednesday and Thursday's meetings of the Cabinet's EU exit and trade (strategy and negotiations) sub-committee to discuss what "end state" relationship the UK will seek with its former partners.

.@Anna_Soubry tells @nicholaswatt it's time Theresa May stood up to the "hard ideological Brexiteers" and "slung 'em out"

-- BBC Newsnight (@BBCNewsnight) February 6, 2018

Asked if she would like Mr Johnson and Mr Rees-Mogg to "pipe down", and whether she feared a split in the party, Mrs May said: "The party and the Government are focused on one very clear act, thing that we have to do, which is what the British people asked us to do, which is to leave the European Union.

"Now we've set out a clear position in the Lancaster House speech, the Article 50 letter, the Florence speech, all of these show the same principles underpinning what we want to do when we leave the European Union, which is to ensure that we get a good deal for our trading in goods and services."

Mrs May is facing pressure to get the Cabinet to agree what it wants from Brexit and earlier Home Secretary Amber Rudd said she "hopes" the Government will be able to clarify its negotiating stance "within the next few weeks".

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in Westminster Hall (UK Parliament/PA)
Prime Minister Theresa May speaks in Westminster Hall (UK Parliament/PA)

But Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon demanded a role for her government and devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland in influencing the war cabinet's deliberations on Britain's priorities.

Ms Sturgeon told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "It is overwhelmingly in my view in the interests of the country, our economy, to remain within the customs union and the single market."

Meanwhile, Ms Rudd did little to quell concerns that proposals for a UK immigration system post-Brexit had been delayed, saying only that it was "likely" the plans would be set out before exit day in March 2019.

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