Senior figures in Government are seeking the softest form of Brexit, potentially to allow the UK to rejoin the European Union, a former minister claimed.
Steve Baker, who was a minister in the Brexit department until July, suggested that “powerful forces” in Government were seeking to keep the UK in arrangements similar to the single market and customs union.
He called instead for an “advanced free-trade agreement” with “practical arrangements” on the border between Northern Ireland and Ireland.
In a video message, Mr Baker, who quit as a minister in response to Theresa May’s Chequers plan, said: “It may be that powerful forces within the Government are determined to have a high-alignment Brexit, something like the EEA plus something like the customs union.
“That might be because they are badly advised about the cost of customs and the potential for new non-tariff barriers.
“It might be because they do not want to leave the European Union and wish to create the conditions to rejoin it later, with all that would mean, no rebate, adopting the euro and so on.
“It might be because of secret guarantees wrongly given to the car industry that nothing would change as we left the EU.”
Business Secretary Greg Clark made a series of promises to car giants including Nissan after they raised concerns about the impact of Brexit on their factories and supply chains.
Mr Baker said there was “some evidence” for each of the three possible reasons for the push for a soft Brexit “but what is for sure is that the Government’s Chequers plan does not deliver a meaningful Brexit and the EU says it does not work”.
He said the UK should be “unafraid” of leaving the EU without a deal, although that would not be “optimal”.
“The UK made a democratic decision to leave and become an independent country.
“The EU is not entitled to split the UK and it is not entitled to constrain how we regulate our economy and govern ourselves after we leave.
“If the UK faces either possibility then we must leave with nothing agreed and we must be unafraid to do so.
“But that would not be the optimal solution, especially for Ireland.
“That’s why it’s time to accept practical arrangements on the Irish border for the important but small proportion of trade which is north-south and to make an advanced free-trade agreement work for the whole UK.
“The alternative is to have practical arrangements in Ireland with no deal.”