Dominic Raab has said he did not understand the “full extent” of how reliant the UK is on the Dover-Calais crossing.
Pro-EU campaigners and MPs seized on the Brexit secretary’s “stunning” admission at a conference on Wednesday.
Jenny Chapman MP, Labour’s Shadow Brexit Minister, said: “How are we meant to trust this government to deliver a good deal for this country when we have a Brexit Secretary who doesn’t even understand the very basics of Brexit?”
SNP MSP Stewart Stevenson said it was “a stunning admission that shows just how clueless the Tories are about their Brexit plans”.
Will Straw, the director of the official Remain campaign in 2016, told Raab on Twitter: “Would it not have been better if you’d done your homework before backing Leave?”
And Labour MP Stephen Doughty, a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign, said: “It’s becoming clearer by the day that the UK is headed for a miserable outcome from these talks.
“Brexit has turned into a mess that nobody voted for and it’s only going to get worse.
“It’s clear Dominic Raab can’t sort this mess out – only the people can with a People’s Vote.”
Raab told a technology conference last night about the “peculiar geographic entity that is the United Kingdom”.
“I hadn’t quite understood the full extent of this,” he said.
“If you look at the UK and look at how we trade in goods, we are particularly reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing.
“That is one of the reasons why we have wanted to make sure we have a specific and very proximate relationship with the EU, to ensure frictionless trade at the border.
“I don’t think it is a question so much of the risk of major shortages, but I think probably the average consumer might not be aware of the full extent to which the choice of goods that we have in the stores are dependent on one or two very specific trade routes.”
Theresa May is under mounting pressure from Cabinet ministers and Labour to publish the full legal advice behind her proposed Brexit plan.
A Commons vote on the documents could be forced when Parliament returns after its mini November recess, which would pile further pressure on the prime minister.