In Depth

Brexit: Theresa May says ‘trust me’ to deliver

PM appeals to the public for ‘help’ in bid to break Brexit deadlock

12 March

Vince Cable in Brexit racism row over ‘white faces’ speech

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable has denied calling Brexit voters racist, after claiming that many who voted Leave did so out of a nostalgia for a time when “faces were white”.

Cable caused outrage with his address at the Lib Dem spring conference, in which he said that young people had been disappointed by the outcome of the EU referendum and that the vote had plunged the country into a “non-violent civil war”.

"Too many [voters] were driven by a nostalgia for a world where passports were blue, faces were white, and the map was coloured imperial pink," he said.

“It was their votes on one wet day in June which crushed the hopes and aspiration of the young for years to come. The excuse for this outrage - a vision of a global Britain signing lots of new trade deals - is a fraud. Far from opening our arms to the world, we will be tearing up preferential trade deals we already have with 27 countries in the EU and 74 outside it.”

Conservative MPs “attacked Sir Vince’s remarks as unfair”, reports The Times. Housing, Communities and Local Government Secretary Sajid Javid said that Cable “should be trying to bring country together, not seeking to tear it apart”.

James Cleverly, the Tory party’s deputy chairman, also criticised Cable, saying: “I thought we had moved on from the prejudiced view that Brexit was driven by casual racism. It certainly wasn’t the reason I voted for Brexit.”

This morning Cable denied making accusations of racism, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I spent a lot of the referendum campaign going around, mostly in prosperous country areas...when people thought about immigration, they weren’t predominantly thinking about people from Eastern Europe.”

But he repeated his claim that “nostalgia for that world” was a factor in how people had voted.

“Why else has so much fuss been made about the change in the colour of the passport?” he added.

Meanwhile, British politicians are reported to be ready to throw billions of pounds a year at the EU in pursuit of a trade deal.

The Sun’s political editor, Tom Newton-Dunn, today asks: “Would Britain really be ready to pay the EU for single ­market access, as Norway and Switzerland do, when taking back control of our money was a key cry of the Leave ­campaign?

“The most startling discovery I’ve made recently is - yes.” 

Newton-Dunn claims leading Tory Brexiteers have told him that they would agree to pay the EU up to £5bn a year for access to the trading bloc. 

“It’s well worth it in terms of how much it will benefit the economy,” a prominent Tory reportedly said. “And we’ll get it back in increased ­Treasury revenue anyway.”

12 March

No Brexit trade talks without Irish border solution, says Tusk

The EU will freeze negotiations with the UK to agree a Brexit trade deal until the Irish border issue is solved, European Council President Donald Tusk has warned.

Speaking in Dublin alongside Irish PM Leo Varadkar, Tusk said talks would be a case of “Ireland first” and that “the risk of destabilising the fragile peace process must be avoided at all costs”.

“We know today that the UK government rejects a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea, the EU single market, and the customs union,” Tusk said, adding that until Britain formulates an alternative plan, “it is very difficult to imagine substantive progress in Brexit negotiations”.

Negotiators from the UK have “long been keen” to move on to discussions about trade, and had hoped to do so after the March meeting of the European Council in two weeks, says The Independent.

Tusk also rejected calls from Chancellor Philip Hammond for the Brexit trade deal to include a special arrangement for financial services, reports the Daily Mail. The newspaper claims that the “hard-hitting message” risks “chilling British optimism of a breakthrough” at the EU summit later this month.

Tusk tweeted yesterday that life for financial services would be “different” after Brexit.

John Springford, deputy director of the Centre for European Reform, says it is impossible to see how Theresa May can achieve the incompatible goals of taking the UK out of the customs union, avoiding the return of a hard border in Ireland, and protecting the integrity of the UK as a single regulatory space.

Springford describes the situation as a “trilemma” in which she can have any two of the three outcomes she wants, but not all three.

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