Britain is “ill-equipped” for Brexit talks and needs to take a tougher line with Brussels by telling EU leaders to “sod off” over the divorce bill, a former Cabinet minister has said.
Ex-International Development Secretary Priti Patel, who was forced to resign earlier this month, launched an attack on the Government for failing to set out its Brexit vision and not boasting of the economic opportunities that leaving the European Union offers.
The prominent Brexiteer said the negotiations were “not [in] an ideal state at all”, in an intervention days before Theresa May travels to Brussels to persuade the EU to move onto the new phase of talks covering trade and transition.
In extraordinary scenes, thousands of people tracked Ms Patel’s flight online as she was summoned back from Nairobi for a confrontation with Theresa May after it emerged she had held secret meetings with senior Israeli officials without informing Downing Street.
The Witham MP made it clear that she would be outspoken about Brexit from the backbenches in her resignation letter to the Prime Minister.
Speaking at an event in London organised by The Spectator magazine, Ms Patel said: “The Government has been ill-equipped in terms of preparations for the negotiations... It’s not an ideal state at all.”
She went on: “We should have had conviction and clarity in terms of our end state and destination and presented that and been pretty forthright about it as well,
“My views on money are pretty clear, I don’t like spending money so I would have told the EU in particular to sod off with their excessive financial demands.”
Ms May was leading in “very challenging circumstances” and was “struggling now with a difficult set of cards post the election”, Ms Patel said.
But she said: “One of the failings is we have not set out that vision, what is that vision of Britain going to look like post-Brexit?
“What are the economic opportunities for the City of London and for many other businesses and sectors in terms of leading out in the world and potentially trading with countries we have simply not been engaged with for not just years but for decades.
“And also reflecting that the world is changing, the labour market is changing.”
It comes as a deepening row over the Irish border threatened to derail Brexit talks, as the Republic signalled it would veto moves to trade talks without further guarantees against a “hard border” on the island of Ireland.
EU leaders refuse to move onto the next phase until key issues have been agreed, including citizens rights, the Irish border and the so-called “divorce bill”.
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