Quitting the EU single market, regaining total control over Britain’s borders and a firm two-year deadline for a deal were among the bottom line principles Leave Means Leave challenged the Prime Minister to commit to.
Meanwhile new research from the Change Britain group warned staying in the single market and continuing to pay into EU coffers after Brexit would cost the UK nearly £100billion over the next five years – taking the total sent to Brussels since we joined the bloc in 1973 to more than £620billion by 2021.
That would fund more than 1,000 hospitals or cover England’s annual schools budget 15 times over, said the group.
Mrs May has promised to set out in the New Year the principles she will follow in the formal Brexit talks she will trigger when she invokes Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of March.
But so far she has stayed tight-lipped – even reportedly leaving the Queen “disappointed” by refusing to be more open during her first visit as PM to Balmoral.
Leave Means Leave co-chairmen Richard Tice and John Longworth have now written to the PM setting out their own “high principles” for Brexit.
They said the talks should result in the UK leaving the single market and customs union, and quitting the bloc within two years of invoking Article 50 with no “transitional deal” on key issues.
“The EU is renowned for its inability to secure trade deals within a sensible timeframe and the UK must be prepared to walk away and secure trade deals with the rest of the world if the EU fails to agree a deal in this timeframe,” they wrote.
They also demand that Britain regain total border control, with no preferential migration rules for EU citizens; leaves the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice to make British courts supreme; and quits the EU’s common agricultural and fisheries policies.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this country take back control from Brussels and become the best place in the world to live, work and conduct business. We believe these core principles must not be sacrificed,” their letter concluded.
The importance of a total break from the EU was underlined by Change Britain’s analysis of past and future EU membership fees.
Adjusting the figures to take account of inflation, it found the UK sent some £527billion in today’s prices to the EU between joining in 1973 and this year.
Staying in the single market and continuing to pay Brussels would cost another £96billion over the next five years, they forecast.
Taking account of money received back from the EU, including the annual rebate negotiated by Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s net contribution from 1973 to this year was £175.7billion, the group conceded.
But it said the gross figure was useful as the UK has very little say in how EU grants are spent in Britain, and the annual rebate payment depends on Brussels’ approval.
Conservative MP, former minister, and Change Britain supporter Dominic Raab said: “One of the reasons people voted ‘Leave’ is because they are fed up with the eye-watering sums of money we send to the EU each and every year.
“Instead of funding eurocrats’ vanity projects, the British people want the billions we send to Brussels to be spent on our priorities such as schools and the NHS.
“That’s why we must leave the EU’s single market and take back control of our money.
“It’s what people voted for on 23 June. Politicians of all parties should respect the result and work together to deliver this.”
The scale of Mrs May’s negotiating challenge was further illustrated today when the head of Germany’s motor industry association claimed that a so-called hard Brexit was “mission impossible”.
VDA president Matthias Wissmann said the aim of the Brexit negotiations must be to keep the UK in the single market and wider tariff-free customs union, still paying into the Brussels budget and accepting continued free movement of people.
He said that a more decisive break would have “massive negative effects” on both sides of the English Channel. German vehicles account for half of all new cars registered in the UK.
Brexit Secretary David Davis told UK car makers this month that ministers are focused on getting the “best deal” for the sector.
December 31st, 2016: Express