LONDON — David Miliband believes that Theresa May’s government is being severely unrealistic about what it can achieve in Brexit negotiations with the European Union.
Speaking to Business Insider this week, the former Labour MP and current CEO of the International Rescue Committee organisation (IRC) said that the UK government needs an “outbreak of reality” before exit talks begin.
“Everyone wants the negotiations to go well but there’s going to have to be an outbreak of realism in order to achieve some of the goals that have been set,” he said in our New York office on Wednesday.
Miliband, who missed out to brother Ed on the Labour leadership in 2010, has generally been reluctant to comment on British politics since joining the IRC but had some stark words for May ahead of Article 50 being triggered.
Asked for his thoughts on Brexit and how the government has handled it so far, he told us:
“I think that the Brexit debate is one that has global significance.
“As a British citizen, I am very concerned about the economic and political future of the country. Not least given the threat of separatism from Scotland in the context of the Brexit vote.”
He added: “Sitting in New York — the dangers of Brexit, the dangers of a long, brutish, difficult negotiation that isn’t completed within two years but in fact takes the five to seven years that most experts think is likely, obviously creates business uncertainty and threatens the kind of economic partnerships that Britain has around the world.”
“Everyone wants the negotiations to go well but there’s going to have to be an outbreak of realism in order to achieve some of the goals that have been set.”
May’s government has broadly set out its key negotiating goals but remains accused of being unprepared ahead of exit talks with the 28-nation bloc getting underway when the prime minister triggers Article 50 by the end of March.
Brexit Secretary David Davis told a committee of MPs on Wednesday that the government had not calculated the likely economic cost of leaving the EU with no exit deal in place and defaulting to World Trade Organisation trading rules, despite May’s repeated claim that a “bad deal” would be better than no deal at all.
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