Brexit is ‘already dead’, according to a former aide to David Davis and George Osborne.
James Chapman, who was previously Brexit secretary Davis’ chief of staff, told New Model Adviser® at the Liberal Democrat party conference that a lesser known EU article has given campaigners hope of preventing a hard Brexit.
Under Article 127 the government may have to secure a victory in parliament before the UK can leave the European Economic Area (EEA). This could prove problematic for the government since it does not have an overall majority in the House of Commons.
‘In my view, Brexit is already dead, and that’s because the government has not triggered, nor yet taken a power to trigger, article 127 of the EEA Treaty,' Chapman said.
‘Article 127 runs on a 12 month trigger so it has to be done by March next year. The government is trying to claim that this is just about a tidying up exercise and that effectively we must leave the single market when we leave the EU. That is not the case in my view.
‘I think it’s very clear that they need parliamentary approval separately to do that, and I don’t believe there is a majority in the House of Commons, let alone the House of Lords, for leaving the customs union and the single market, so Brexit is not going to happen.’
Chapman’s assessment was supported by head of policy at Remain campaign group Open Britain, and former EU Commission foreign policy negotiator, Thomas Cole.
Addressing a fringe event at the conference on the legal and regulatory issues surrounding Brexit, Cole highlighted that Labour MP Heidi Alexander was pushing for a debate on the EEA following the government’s attempt to circumvent it in the Withdrawal Bill.
He added: ‘The question begins with “are you a member of the EEA?” either because you are a member of the EU and so by default are part of the EEA, or because you’re one of the European Free Trade Association states.
‘I’m sure that if no notification is given under article 127 prior to the 29th March next year, then you’re already into that one-year period and I think you will see a huge number of legal cases coming forward.’
Chapman and Cole's comments follow moves by prime minister Theresa May to tighten her control of the exit process. Over the weekend foreign secretary and prominent Leave politician Boris Johnson published an article in The Telegraph which appeared to challenge the 'softer' approach May is expected to take in a speech in Florence later this week.