LONDON (ViaNews) – The future of Prime Minister Theresa May and some of her most senior cabinet colleagues has once more been thrown into doubt as a result of a recent report into the economic impact of Brexit.
The latest embarrassment, a leaked report claiming that whatever route Britain follows in negotiations, the country will be worse off, is raising concerns on both sides of the EU fence.
The study was meant for ministers’ eyes only but has been leaked to the press. The findings report that every scenario leaves Britain financially poorer than at present. Government spokesmen have claimed that the report fails to take into account Theresa May’s possible trade deal with Europe and that this will deliver some economically much more palatable.
However, the document does appear to take this into account and suggests that, even if Brussels’ talks are successful, only a third of a percent would be added to Britain’s long-term gross domestic product.
Growth will be up to eight percent lower than if we stayed in the EU, with the best scenario suggesting a fall of two percent, according to the findings. This would be in the case of an ideal soft Brexit, with Britain remaining in the single market. However, such a move would cause political unrest among many Brexiteers, including hard-line conservative MPs, who are fearing spiritual Remainers (including Mrs May and Chancellor Phillip Hammond) will deliver a divorce in name only.
The Government is counting on making up any shortfall in trade deals with the Euro block by establishing new contracts with the US, China, India and countries in the Middle East. However, even then losses would only be partially offset, according to the report.
There is a growing feeling that Phillip Hammond is facing a particular threat from hardline Brexiteers. The report is worrying for them, as it implies that leaving the EU will have long-term negative impacts on the economy. The feeling being put forward, according to Sky News, is that if Hammond can be discredited, then so the report will be regarded with less import. Lose Hammond and lose the report is the feeling among many senior Conservatives.
The official Government position was described by a spokesman: ‘We have already set out that the Government is undertaking a wide range of ongoing analysis in support of our EU exit negotiations and preparations.’
The statement went to claim that no more information could be offered since it could weaken the Government’s plans in discussions with our European neighbours. However, the spokesman added: ‘…ministers have a duty not to publish anything that could risk exposing our negotiating position.’
At this stage, it is unclear as to how the document, called EU Exit Analysis – Cross Whitehall Briefing was leaked to Buzzfeed News, since it was written for Ministers only, and was not distributed beyond this group.
The timing could hardly be worse for the Prime Minister. She is committed to an important visit to China leaving her unable to repair any damage done by the leak. Ominously, a senior unnamed Conservative told the Times that while the knives were not exactly on show, nobody was defending the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, the International Trade Secretary Liam Fox warned hardliners that they look likely to fail to get their way over the details of the separation from the EU. They would have to ‘live with disappointment’ he said.
It is understood that the report was only in draft form, but insiders have indicated that the findings are trustworthy.
Perhaps even more significant than the worrying but not unexpected finding is the whole matter of the leak. On the one hand, secret Remainers and those seeking the softest Brexit possible will be delighted by the news. It plays into their wishes to keep the hardliners quiet. However, that side of the split Government also have plenty to gain.
The findings undermine the Prime Minister’s claims to be in control of proceedings. They leave the Chancellor, already vulnerable following an indirect attack from Boris Johnson over NHS funding, open to more attack for appearing to benefit from the release of the document.
MSN News also recently reported that a majority of the voting public would now favour a second poll over our position on leaving the EU. While only the Lib Dems have come out openly in favour of this, the Scottish Nationalist position is far from certain. Labour have been less than vocal in their support for Brexit and the Government contains a large number of spiritual Remainers.
Further turmoil could leave the door open for a challenge on Theresa May’s unstable leadership, opening the way for, perhaps, Boris Johnson to try his hand once more.