Theresa May’s cabinet is split down the middle over how damaging Brexit will be on the country’s economy.
Despite a display of unity at the party’s recent conference in Birmingham, the prime minister is being forced to deal with a major rift between cabinet ministers over how Britain should approach post-Brexit trade.
The row relates to whether Britain should leave the European customs union, according to the Times, a tariff-free zone which comes with EU membership.
Britain can only sign new trade deals if it leaves, but some Remain ministers feel leaving the union would cause huge damage to the economy.
A number of ministers say leaving the union could cost Britain up to £40 billion ($50.9 billion) a year, which inevitably would lead to more spending cuts and an extended period of austerity to fill the gap.
Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, called for Britain to leave the customs union at a fringe event at the Tory conference attended by Business Insider. “Most businesses in the world are outside the European Union,” he said.
“The United States is outside the European Union — it doesn’t seem to be seriously hampered in doing business with Europe because it’s not in the customs union.”
The government is also squabbling over how long it would take for Britain to reap economic benefits from Brexit.
A senior Brexit minister told the Times that it would take no more than four years for Britain to experience economic benefits from leaving the EU. However, senior Remain colleagues warn it could take up to twenty years. “It doesn’t happen overnight,” they said.
This is just the latest sign of how divided the ruling Tory party actually is over Britain’s departure from the 28-nation bloc. At a fringe event we attended on Sunday, pro-Remain party members said they felt excluded from the party. “We are no longer in the tent — what do we do now?” one source told us.
The battle of Brexit isn’t just taking place behind closed doors, though. Anna Soubry MP, who was a passionate supporter of Remain leading up to the referendum, slammed the hard Brexit agenda as “bonkers” in an interview with BI, and described Tory MPs who want Britain to leave the single market are “in denial.”