Secret Brexit document shows Britain unlikely to remain in single market

British Prime Minister Theresa May walking out of 10 Downing Street.
British Prime Minister Theresa May walking out of 10 Downing Street.PHOTO: REUTERS

In yet another blow to British Prime Minister Theresa May's government, notes from a meeting carried by a Tory aide was photographed and the handwriting deciphered.

It showed that insiders believed the UK was unlikely to be able to stay within the European single market, and while negotiations over manufacturing could be "relatively straightforward", a deal for financial and legal services would be a challenge.

"What's the model? Have your cake and eat it," said the note, which an aide to the ruling Conservative Party's vice-chair Mark Field was seen carrying in her arm after a meeting at the Department for Exiting the European Union.

"French likely to be most difficult," the note also said, referring to French negotiators who will most likely drive a hard bargain during the Brexit negotiations.

Instead, the note suggested that Britain could go for a "Canada-plus" option, referring to the free trade deal that took seven years to reach between Canada and the EU.

The British media reported that a government spokesperson would not associate Mrs May with the document, saying: "These individual notes do not belong to a government official or a special adviser. They do not reflect the government's position in relation to Brexit negotiations."

The notes also suggested that there may not be a transitional period after the end of Article 50's two-year deadline, which Mrs May had hinted was possible just a week ago.

"Transitional - loath to do it. Whitehall will hold onto it. We need to bring an end to negotiations," said the note.

Another point made among the notes was that Britain expects the negotiations to be tough. "Difficult on article 50 implementation - Barnier wants to see what deal looks like first", it said, referring to lead negotiator Michel Barnier.

"Got to be done in parallel - 20 odd negotiations. Keep the two years. Won't provide more detail," it continued. "We think it's unlikely we'll be offered Single Market."

The document also highlighted that the Brexit team may not be keen on a Norwegian model. The Scandinavian country is not part of the EU but is within the single market.

"Why no Norway - two elements - no ECJ intervention. Unlikely to do internal market," referring to the European Court of Justice. Norway is under the jurisdiction of the European court. It also accepts free movement of people under its deal with the EU, which Brexiters do not want.

Meanwhile, the government could face a second Brexit legal challenge after pro-EU think-tank British Influence said there was a "strong chance" the government would be acting unlawfully if it took Britain out of the European Economic Area and the European Union, reported AFP.

"We need judicial clarification," it said.

Mrs May's spokesperson said: "Once we leave the EU, we will automatically cease to be a member of the EEA." The EEA allows for tariff-free trade and free movement of people, and includes all 28 EU member states as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

The government's appeal to a high court ruling stating the the government required parliament to consent on triggering Article 50 will come before the Supreme Court next month.