Hardline Brexiteers hand May list of negotiating ‘red lines’

Letter urges prime minister to walk away if seven new conditions are not met

Hardline Conservative Brexiteers have urged Theresa May to walk away from Brexit talks unless the European Union agrees this month to seven new negotiating red lines.

Former cabinet ministers Owen Paterson, Nigel Lawson and John Redwood are among more than 30 Brexiteers who signed a letter to the prime minister laying down the new conditions.

They want Ms May to rule out free movement of people during a transition period and for the European Court of Justice to lose jurisdiction in Britain the day Britain leaves the EU.

The letter also demands that Britain should be able to negotiate, sign and implement new trade deals during the transition period.


"If the EU refuses to agree to these terms by the end of the December council, the UK – having exhausted every avenue – should suspend its participation in the negotiations and inform the EU that, unless they are prepared to talk to us seriously about a future free trade arrangement, we will revert to World Trade Organisation terms from March 30th, 2019," it says.

Former prime minister Tony Blair warned on Sunday that Brexit put the Belfast Agreement at risk and that the prospect of a hard Border posed real challenges to the peace process.

He said the open Border was "part of that expression that the island of Ireland was together" in the agreement.

“If you end up with a hard Border, obviously that causes tensions. It doesn’t mean that you should abandon the Good Friday Agreement, but it poses real challenges to it,” he told the BBC.

Utterly despicable

Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg dismissed Irish concerns about the Border as a consequence of political instability and rivalry between parties in Dublin. He said the British government had made clear it had no intention of imposing a hard Border and that it was a political decision for the Irish Government as to whether it wished to do so.

“If the Irish and EU wish to impose a border that would be a matter for them, but they don’t have to do it – it is a question of political choice,” he said.

Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has condemned what she called "the utterly despicable attitude and ignorance of the extreme Brexiteers towards Ireland and Northern Ireland" over the Border. External affairs secretary Fiona Hyslop on Sunday promised Scotland's support for Ireland over the issue.

"Scotland voted to stay in the EU, and we support the UK remaining a member of the single market and customs union – something I have just reiterated to the Irish Foreign Minister in person in Dublin, along with our support for the Good Friday Agreement," she told the Sunday Herald.

"On virtually every issue of substance relating to Brexit, Ireland has an ally in Scotland. We will argue strongly for an open Border between Ireland and Northern Ireland as we believe that is in the best interests of everyone in the UK and Ireland."

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times