Tory MPs are banned from using the terms “Brexit” and “no deal” when talking about the UK’s future relationship with the EU, a leaked government script has revealed.
Instead, politicians have been told to refer only to a “Canada-style free trade agreement” or the “2019 deal” when discussing the UK’s departure from the bloc in public.
“Stress that the UK’s priority in the negotiations is to ensure that we restore our economic and political independence on 1 January 2021,” the script, seen by HuffPost UK, urges.
“That is the government’s primary objective. If asked to expand, we will ensure that we will have the right to regulate and are not constrained by EU law or the CJEU [Court of Justice of the European Union].”
“Brexit” should only be used in reference to “a historical event that took place on 31 January 2020”, the script says – confirming revelations made by HuffPost UK in December.
MPs are also told to dial down their enthusiasm and refrain from using words like “ambitious”, “unique” and “bespoke” when talking about future trading relationships, “or anything else that can be taken to mean anything other than a typical FTA [free trade agreement] of the CETA [Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or Canada-style deal] type”.
“If hyperbole is absolutely essential, only make reference to a deal ‘at least as good as’ CETA,” the script goes on.
Canada’s deal with the EU sees it get rid of most taxes on imports, except for those on poultry, meat and eggs. It also increases quotas of goods that can be exported without extra charges.
The script adds: “Do not give the impression that we are seeking a unique or novel agreement. Stress that we are looking for a deal based on EU precedent.”
Under a new set of hardline negotiating guidelines published by Boris Johnson, the UK is braced to walk away from talks with Brussels as early as June if it fails to get the right trade terms.
The “UK’s Approach To Negotiations” blueprint states that the UK is “committed to working in a speedy and determined fashion” ahead of a high-level meeting in June, and “would hope” that a deal could be ready to be rapidly finalised by September.
Yet it warns: “If that does not seem to be the case at the June meeting, the government will need to decide whether the UK’s attention should move away from negotiations and focus solely on continuing domestic preparations to exit the transition period in an orderly fashion.”
Boris Johnson has made clear he would prefer to reach a Canada-style free trade agreement by the end of this year, but the new paper makes clear the PM is ready to head for basic World Trade Organisation arrangements if necessary, which would mean new tariffs and charges.