Michael Gove has stressed that regardless of the outcome of negotiations with the EU, the Government is determined to leave the single market and customs union on the deadline. His shadow counterpart, Rachel Reeves, appeared to side with the Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster on the “vital” need for a Brexit deal to be delivered. This appeared to break with Sir Keir Starmer’s previous demands for constant delays when he was Shadow Brexit Secretary under Corbyn’s Labour leadership.
Ms Reeves told the House of Commons: “It is vital that businesses and jobs are supported, and that the oven-ready deal that the country was promised is delivered upon this year.
“Yet frankly, many of us are worried about whether the oven was even turned on.”
Ms Reeves also pointed to the “extraordinary” contents of a leaked letter from cabinet minister Liz Truss that was addressed to the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and Mr Gove.
In the letter, Ms Truss raises concerns about border control post-Brexit, and expresses worry about possible smuggling between the UK and EU.
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‘Yet frankly, many of us are worried about whether the oven was even turned on.’
Despite Sir Keir accepting the December deadline, notable Remainers such as Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the Scottish Nationalist Party members petitioned the Government to change their minds.
Mr Khan broke ranks with his party and called for the Government to stop “putting dogma ahead of the national interest”.
The SNP had urged Labour and other opposition parties to back an extension to the Brexit transition period until the end of 2022.
However, the UK formally confirmed it would not seek an extension of the Brexit transition period beyond December last month, and the deadline for the request has now passed.
Mr Khan broke ranks with his party and called for the Government to stop.
Referring to Ms Truss’ letter, Ms Reeves shot at Mr Gove: “It’s all very well announcing a multi-million pound advertising campaign, but if he can’t persuade his bestest friend in cabinet that everything is going according to plan then it’s hardly surpising that the country is anxious and confused.
“A month ago, the PM said that there was no reason a deal could not be reached by the end of this month.
“Where are we now in terms of being on track to meet that deadline?”
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Mr Gove thanked her for her “comittment to working collaboratively” in order to ensure the best possible deal with the EU.
He told Ms Reeves: “It is the case that progress is being made.
“Still there are significant differences between ourselves and the European Union.
“But I did think it was significant and welcome, for example, in the joint committee that they conceded it would no longer be appropriate for the EU to have an office in Northern Ireland.
“This is an example of the flexibility, which I know Michel Barnier and the others are applying in the broader negotiations.”