Tory Brexiteer MPs united around a bold new “plan A plus” which will give Britain the best trade deal in the world with the EU.
But tonight Downing Street issued a warning claiming that pushing forward with a Canada style trade deal will lead to the break-up of the UK with Northern Ireland left under Brussels rule.
The plan drawn up by the thinktank the Institute for Economic Affairs is backed by Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg and comes days after the EU seemingly killed off Theresa May’s controversial Chequers proposals at the ill-fated Salzburg summit.
Crucially, the IEA plan also mirrors the Brexit proposals put forward by the EU to ensure Britain breaks away cleanly and the EU’s internal rules are not broken.
I’m afraid the Remainers who want another referendum hold democracy in contempt, they lost and they should grow up
The IEA is calling on ministers to seek a “basic” free trade agreement for goods and pursue “regulatory freedom and trade independence”.
Mr Rees-Mogg, who leads the powerful Tory backbench European Research Group (ERG), said: “So much of what hear about these negotiations has been about managing decline, has been about how you have the least bad Brexit, this is about how you can have a fantastic Brexit that sets us up for the next generation and ensures our prosperity.
“This has been offered to us by the Commission, they have offered us the best trade deal they have ever done with any country ever in the world, so if you want to call it Canada plus, or super Canada or supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Canada, that is what is being aimed and its being offered.”
Mr Rees-Mogg also hit out at those seeking a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU, he said: “I’m afraid the Remainers who want another referendum hold democracy in contempt, they lost and they should grow up.”
It was immediately endorsed by Mr Johnson, who quit as foreign secretary over the Chequers plans because they would leave Britain tied to Brussels.
Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg
He Tweeted: “Fine piece of work. This is a plan the EU would understand and respect – delivering prosperity for the U.K. and our European partners. I’ve no doubt it would unite MPs and the country.”
The IEA’s launch, which was also attended by former Brexit secretary David Davis, saw proposals for a “Plan A+” deal with the EU which would see full reciprocal market access, no tariffs in goods including agriculture and maximum recognition of regulatory standards.
Mr Davis, just hours before Mrs May was due to meet Cabinet colleagues to discuss the Government’s Brexit policy, said it was time to “reset negotiations”.
He said: “We’re currently, bluntly, in a cul-de-sac, I’m afraid Salzburg was all too predictable.
“Now what we need to do is to use the original commitments made back on March 7 by both Tusk and Barnier to go for an advanced free trade agreement.”
He later added: “My last instruction, virtually, to my department was draft the legal text for the free trade plus arrangement so that you’ve got it to work from.
“If you’ve got that to work from the time spinning, time wasting activity of the European Commission which we’ve seen lots of over the last two years fail.”
Former Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers, who was also on the panel at the IEA launch, said that she believed proposals put forward by the ERG on the Irish border issue “can unlock negotiations”.
The ERG proposals, released earlier this month, set out that the border issue could be solved using electronic customs declarations, “trusted trader” status for big business and exemptions for small businesses.
Ms Villiers, speaking in support of those proposals, said: “The Irish border has been the blockage which has caused progress towards a proper exit free trade agreement to stall, this is the key reason behind the proposal ion the Chequers plan.
“So, if we can find a way to maintain the drive through border we have on the island of Ireland, but within the context of a trade deal, we can unlock the negotiations and put them back on track to a Canada plus type arrangement.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May
The IEA event came just hours before Mrs May was due to meet senior ministers in a bid to save her Chequers blueprint for Brexit.
There is likely to be a lengthy inquest into what went wrong at last week’s informal EU summit in Salzburg where Mrs May was bluntly told key elements of the Chequers plan would not work.
The Prime Minister insists her proposal, which would see Britain maintain a “common rulebook” with the EU for trade in goods and agriculture, is the only credible option on the table which would avoid the return of a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
Mrs May’s spokesman ruled out moving towards a Canada style deal, saying: “Given a standard free trade agreement could not prevent a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, the EU’s position is that their proposed Northern Ireland protocol would come into effect.
“So, the FTA would only apply to the Great Britain-EU relationship, with Northern Ireland effectively remaining in parts of the single market and customs union.
“The PM has repeatedly set out that we must protect the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom as a whole.”