Theresa May condemns abuse of MPs over Brexit

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Theresa May condemns abuse of MPs over Brexit

Theresa May has condemned abuse of MPs following last week’s Brexit vote.

The prime minister said despite “strongly held views” on both sides of the Commons there was no place for threats of violence and intimidation.

Some of the rebel Tories who helped defeat the government on its EU Withdrawal Bill have spoken out about abuse they have received following the hostile press coverage.

“Our politics must be better than that,” Mrs May said.

The prime minister was speaking as she updated MPs on last week’s EU summit.

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She said the agreement secured at the summit to move talks on to the UK and EU’s future relationship was “an important step in delivering the smooth and orderly Brexit people voted for”.

The prime minister also insisted the UK could secure a “bespoke” trade deal with the EU after Brexit despite the EU’s chief negotiator suggesting this cannot happen.

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn said the agreement on what had been negotiated so far had been “cobbled together” with a “vagueness” that “underlines the sharp divisions within the cabinet”.

The UK voted to leave the European Union in June 2016 and Brexit is due to happen at 23:00 GMT on 29 March, 2019.

Ministers thrash out Brexit plan

Image copyright EPA

Mrs May’s statement to MPs came after she and her senior ministers formally discussed for the first time what the UK’s long-term relationship with the EU should be.

Until now the two negotiating teams have only been discussing “divorce” issues like how much money the UK owes.

BBC assistant political editor Norman Smith said there was a “clear divide” between ministers, with some like Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd calling for the UK to stick closely to the EU’s single market to preserve access for British firms.

On the other side others, like Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, want more divergence so the UK has more freedom to strike its own trade deals with other countries.

What happens in the meantime?

After the UK leaves the EU in March 2019, but before the final “end state” is reached, the government wants a temporary “implementation period” of about two years.

This is what negotiations are expected to focus on in the coming weeks.

Mrs May told MPs she wants “access to one another’s markets” to continue “as now” during this period.

The UK will also negotiate, and “where possible” sign, trade deals, which would kick in after the end of the implementation period, she said.

She also said that during this period the UK will register people arriving from the EU to prepare for the new border controls promised after Brexit.

The EU’s negotiating position makes clear that it expects the UK to observe all of its rules – including on freedom of movement – and accept the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice during the implementation, or transition, period.

‘Lose-lose scenario’

On Monday there was a warning from the EU side that whether a transitional arrangement will happen at all is not guaranteed.

Mr Barnier’s senior adviser Stefaan De Rynck said the EU hoped for a “withdrawal treaty” to be drawn up by October 2018, giving time for it to be agreed by politicians.

He added: “In that withdrawal treaty there could be a transitional arrangement, transition period, implementation period, which the prime minister refers to.

“That is not a given today, let’s be very clear about that.”

Describing Brexit as a “lose-lose” scenario, he added: “For us, I don’t think we will ever label Brexit a success. It’s a mutual weakening, I think, of two parties.”

But former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith, a key Leave campaigner, said the UK should be looking beyond the EU for trading relationships in the future.

“It’s not a case of less trade, it’s a case of a different type of trade, and British business will have to learn, as they do, to get by in a different world,” he said.

A video guide to Brexit

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