On Monday, the House of Commons voted on a controversial new bill published by the Government. The UK is currently in a transition period that keeps it bound to the EU’s rules until December 31. The two sides are trying to negotiate a new trade deal that would come into effect once this period ends, but talks have been characterised by perpetual deadlock.
With the new Internal Market Bill, the Government is essentially seeking to prevent disruption to trade between the four nations of the UK if no deal is reached with the EU.
Downing Street has described it as a “vital legal safety net”.
However, the move has enraged the EU and prompted fresh rebellion within the Conservative Party.
It is not clear whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief adviser is behind the push for the bill.
However, it is already known the Brexit guru has an appetite to “break things” and the move could help reboot the trade talks by offering Brussels a reality check about the looming danger of a no deal scenario.
Mr Johnson’s strategy appears to be in stark contrast to that of his predecessor Mrs May, which Mr Cummings had previously described as a “train wreck”.
In an open letter addressed to Conservative MPs and donors of the Tories in 2017, the former Vote Leave director claimed Mrs May’s decision to trigger Article 50 without a clear plan was like “putting a gun in your mouth and pulling the trigger”.
He claimed that the Government’s plan was to keep Britain in the EU in all but name, pointing out that preparations for life outside of the single market and customs union had not begun.
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He wrote: “The Government’s nominal policy, which it put in its manifesto and has repeated many times, is to leave the Single Market and Customs Union and the jurisdiction of the European Courts of Justice (ECJ).
“This requires preparing to be a ‘third country’ for the purposes of EU law. It requires building all the infrastructure and facilities that are normal around the world to manage trade.
“This process should have started before triggering A50 but the government has irretrievably botched this. Having botched it, it could have partially recovered its blunder by starting to do it afterwards.”
He added: “No such action has been taken. Downing Street, the Treasury, the Cabinet Office and the Cabinet have made no such preparations and there is no intention of starting.”
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He argued the Government’s promise to maintain frictionless trade between Britain and the EU was “logically, legally and practically incompatible” with being outside the single market and customs union.
Referring to the recent Cabinet debate over “max-fac” versus the customs partnership, Mr Cumming said: “It doesn’t matter which version of delusion your gangs finally agree on if none of them has a basis in reality and so long as May/Hammond continue they will have no basis in reality.”