London, July 25 (IANS) British Prime Minister Theresa May has said that she was taking control of negotiations with Brussels on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU).
May told MPs about her decision on Tuesday in a written answer to the House of Commons as it was preparing to close for its long summer recess, Xinhua news agency reported.
The main opposition Labour Party responded to the announcement with shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman saying May’s newly appointed Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab had been sidelined.
The Independent newspaper’s political sketch writer headed a commentary: “Theresa May has taken control of the Brexit negotiations. God help us all”.
“Still, now that Theresa May has taken ‘personal control’ of Brexit away from the Brexiteers, perhaps a positive outcome is possible,” said the commentary … “Fingers crossed then. There is still time for ‘Take Control’ Theresa to work her unique magic.”
In her statement, May said that Raab, who she appointed following the resignation just over two weeks ago of her previous Brexit secretary David Davis, would be her deputy in the negotiations with the EU.
Earlier Raab, who has already held talks with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, appeared in the House of Commons to announce the publication of a new government White Paper explaining how Britain’s EU withdrawal agreement will be put into law.
May said both she and Raab will be supported by the Cabinet Office’s Europe Unit, with the unit having overall responsibility for the preparation and conduct of the negotiations, drawing upon support from the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) and other departments as required.
May said DExEU will continue to lead on all of the government’s preparations for Brexit: domestic preparations in both a deal and a no-deal scenario, all of the necessary legislation, and preparations for the negotiations to implement the detail of the Future Framework.
Insisting there was no sidelining, Raab said later there was no tension and that he will attend all meetings with May. He said the announcement amounted to some shifting of the Whitehall deckchairs.
Addressing MPs about the new withdrawal bill, and later facing a select committee of MPs, Raab said again that the 39 billion pounds ($52 billion) that Britain has agreed to pay as its so-called divorce settlement with the EU was conditional on a future trade deal between Brussels and London.
Britain is due to leave the EU next March and there will be an implementation period until December 2020 when EU rules and regulations will continue to apply in Britain. This so-called transition period is to allow both sides to acclimatize to the new relationship with the remaining 27 EU member states.
Britain’s negotiating team will be in Brussels Wednesday to discuss the future relationship, the border issue between Northern Ireland and Ireland and remaining issues on the withdrawal agreement.