Major Tory donor threatens to cut Conservative funds if Britain leaves the single market

Theresa May may yet pull the plug on Britain's access

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Saturday 07 January 2017 11:04
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May

A major Conservative party donor has warned that he will stop finding the party if Theresa May pulls Britain out of the single market as part of Brexit.

Sir Andrew Cook, who has donated over £1.2 million to the party, told The Times newspaper that such a policy, characteristic of a hard Brexit, would see Britain “sleepwalk to disaster”.

“It is very difficult to make a political donation to a party when, although I support it ideologically, I do not believe that my interests and my ideology are ad idem with the principal Brexiteers,’ he said.

The engineering firm chairman said parts of his business were almost “entirely dependent” on the single market to operate.

Ms May is expected to put withdrawal from the European Court of Justice and the end of the right to free movement as red lines in her negotiation. She will outline details in a speech later this month.

She has said she wants Britain to get “the best deal” and maximum trading access to European markets. However, restricting movement and ending ECJ enforcement of regulations would by definition almost certainly bring Britain out of the single market.

Government 'would consider paying for single market access post-Brexit'

The Government was warned against “muddled thinking” by its outgoing chief diplomat to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, this week. He quit his post early, catching the Government by surprise.

He was reportedly frustrated at the inability of Brexit Secretary David Davis and Trade Secretary Liam Fox to understand briefings about the European Union.

The Prime Minister has said she will trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of March this year.

The process will take up to two years; if the UK does not reach a deal by that time it will by default crash out of the EU and be forced to trade on World Trade Organisation rules.

The negotiation period can only be prolonged by a unanimous vote of all European Union member states.

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