Liam Fox and Philip Hammond have presented a united front to declare the UK will not stay in the EU by a “back door” after Brexit.
The International Trade Secretary and Chancellor had seemed to be on a collision course in recent months over the length and details of a transition period for the UK’s new relationship with the EU after March 2019.
Hammond suggested a transitional deal could last four years, whereas Fox wanted any arrangement to end within three.
Hammond’s support for a transitional period was thought to be the reason behind a series of leaks to the media about comments he had made in Cabinet meetings - something Fox denied having any involvement in.
In a joint article for the Sunday Telegraph, Hammond and Fox tried to end the months of wrangling between the Remain and Leave factions at the top of the Tory party.
They wrote that after March 2019: “We will leave the customs union and be free to negotiate the best trade deals around the world as an independent, open, trading nation.
“We will leave the single market, because there was a vote for change on June 23rd and that is what we will deliver.
“We want our economy to remain strong and vibrant through this period of change. That means businesses need to have confidence that there will not be a cliff-edge when we leave the EU in just over twenty months’ time.
“That is why we believe a time-limited interim period will be important to further our national interest and give business greater certainty – but it cannot be indefinite; it cannot be a back door to staying in the EU.
“And it must ensure a smooth and predictable pathway for businesses and citizens alike.
“We are both clear that during this period the UK will be outside the single market and outside the customs union and will be a ‘third-country’ not party to EU treaties.”
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson took to Twitter to praise the article - a further sign of the Tories trying to end Cabinet infighting.
However, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage dismissed the article as being more about “party unity” than enacting the result of the EU referendum.
As well hard Brexiteers such as Farage criticising the article, prominent Remain campaigners also dismissed the piece.
Ben Bradshaw - supporter of the anti-Brexit group Open Britain - said: “Cabinet Ministers may be desperately trying to put on a display of hard Brexit unity but over a year after the referendum, there is still an alarming lack of clarity about what the Government’s negotiating position is.
“Ministers keep relying on rhetoric that does not stand up to scrutiny in reality. They promise to get a deal with Europe that delivers the ‘exact same benefits’ as now but with absolutely no evidence about how that can be achieved.
“Pulling Britain out of the Single Market and the Customs Union in 2019 will drive our economy over a cliff edge - putting jobs and family finances at risk.”
The article comes as the voices calling for a second EU referendum grow louder.
Tory MP Anna Soubry and former Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband both published articles in Sunday papers backing another vote, with the former suggesting she would be prepared to join another party in order to stop Brexit.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday, Soubry said: “I am proud of my loyalty to my party and my country.
“People have asked me two questions, if the worst happened and we staggered recklessly towards a ‘Hard Brexit’ that would destroy the lives and livelihoods of my constituents: Could I ever see myself joining with like-minded people who want to save our country from such an appalling fate? And has that moment arrived yet?
“The answer to the first question is ‘it is not impossible’; the answer to the second is ‘no’.
“But I would be betraying my principles if I did not make it clear that country must always come before party.”