A British Brexit supporting MP with Kenyan heritage has admitted there are no plans for a legally enforceable link between Britain’s £39bn divorce bill for leaving the European Union and future trade.
Appearing before the Brexit Committee on Wednesday, Suella Braverman, who was previously chair of the pro-Brexit European Research Group of MPs, suggested that paying the withdrawal bill and any trade deal could be enforced only by a “duty of good faith”.
Her comments caused a great deal of concern among the MPs on the committee, who noted that the Commons was being asked to vote on the financial deal in the withdrawal agreement in October, without any legal guarantees of what the UK would get in return.
Labour MP Pat McFadden said: “Isn’t it the case that we will be agreeing to pay the financial settlement before we have a legal text on the future agreement between the UK and the EU?”
Braverman replied: “The withdrawal agreement text has been nearly finalised and agreed, that contains issues relating the financial settlement. At present, it doesn’t contain aspects you talk about on conditionality.
“There is agreed a duty of good faith and that is an important aspect of the withdrawal agreement which obliges both parties to cooperate in a way, which means we are working constructively towards a future framework which is mutually beneficial and meets our objectives.”
Braverman pointed to statements made previously by Prime Minister Theresa May, insisting the financial settlement “is made as part of a broader package relating, and in the spirit of our future partnership the two will be connected when we vote in October”.
If a trade deal was not agreed then there was a “very clear possibility” that a renegotiation would take place and “those payments would not be owed”.
Ms Braverman’s comments were later rebuked by the Prime Minister’s spokesman who said: “We have been absolutely clear that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. We are clear of our intent to agree the future framework at the same time as the withdrawal agreement.
“Article 50 sets out that the withdrawal agreement should take account of the parting member state’s future relationship with the EU.
“This means Parliament will vote on the withdrawal agreement at the same time as the terms of our future relationship with the EU.”
However, the spokesman said he did not disagree with the contention that while the UK would be legally bound to pay the divorce bill, the EU would not be bound to promises on the future trade.