Britain wants ‘right to object’ to EU rules in transition period

EU control over UK post-Brexit ‘not particularly democratic’, says David Davis

Britain will seek a "right to object" to new rules adopted by the European Union during a transition period after Brexit, David Davis has said. The Brexit secretary was speaking to a House of Lords committee shortly after EU ministers agreed that Britain must follow all EU rules during the transition but will have no role in determining them.

“It’s not particularly democratic practice to just have the country accept without any say-so, anything – particularly if . . . the European Union takes it on itself to do something which is actively disadvantageous to a major British industry or something like that. So that’s why we’ve raised the matter, and let’s see how it goes,” Mr Davis said.

Hardline Conservative Brexiteers on Monday called on Theresa May's government to reject the EU's proposals for the transition. Veteran Eurosceptic Bill Cash told the House of Commons that Britain should not accept any deal that meant it would have to follow EU rules after it leaves in March 2019.

“Given that we’re leaving the EU and therefore the customs union, the single market and the provisions relating to freedom of movement, is the government going to reject this new EU ultimatum – including that the EU court of justice will continue to apply to the UK?” he said.


Brexit divisions

“Does the government reject this council decision as inconsistent with our leaving the European Union, which we are entitled by European Union law itself – and by the Lisbon Treaty under article 50?”

Divisions over Brexit have resurfaced within the government in recent days, following chancellor Philip Hammond's suggestion that Britain could diverge only modestly from the EU after it withdraws. Ms May disowned the chancellor's remark but Brexiteers have warned her against any backsliding or watering down of Brexit in the next phase of the negotiations.

Anna Soubry, a former Conservative business minister who campaigned against Brexit, urged the prime minister to stand up to hardline Brexiteers on her own benches.

“When is the government going to stand up against the hard Brexiteers who mainly inhabit these benches – there’s only about 35 of them – see them off, and make sure that we get a sensible Brexit, because if we don’t, we will sleepwalk into a disastrous Brexit for generations to come,” she said.

Focus of discontent

Labour's shadow Brexit minister Paul Blomfield also accused Ms May of allowing hardliners to call the shots and urged the government to consider remaining in the customs union after Brexit.

The prime minister has become a focus of discontent for all wings of her party, with Brexiteers, remainers and centrists complaining about her government’s lack of direction. Amid speculation that the number of MPs who want Ms May to step down is approaching the 48 needed to trigger a confidence vote, one backbencher offered qualified support on Monday.

Johnny Mercer, a rising star who was passed over for promotion in the prime minister's reshuffle this month, said time was running out for her to salvage her premiership.

“How long has the prime minister got? I am of the view that any sort of change in leadership is not helpful at the moment and I don’t support that, but I do think the window is closing because politics can be quite a brutal game,” he said.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times