Sir John Major Questions Government’s Brexit Strategy

Sir John Major, the Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997, has used a speech at Chatham House to question the Government’s Brexit strategy. He called for consideration of the process to ensure that the UK benefited as much as possible from Brexit, and called on the Government to “heal the divisions and unite”.

Major was critical of the confrontational approach taken by some Government Ministers and said:

“In my own experience, the most successful results are obtained when talks are conducted with goodwill: it is much easier to reach agreement with a friend than a quarrelsome neighbour. But, behind the diplomatic civilities, the atmosphere is already sour. A little more charm, and a lot less cheap rhetoric, would do much to protect the UK’s interests”.

The former Prime Minister, who saw rebellion from within the Conservative Party in the 1990s, added about the trade issue:

“A new trade deal with Europe will be hugely complex. No-one should envy the Secretary of State and his negotiators. Some industries – cars and aerospace for example – hope for special, perhaps industry-to-industry, deals for their exports to Europe. The difficulties of this are legion: the chances of success are slim – not least since the German Chancellor is likely to rule out sectoral deals. Even if she does not, WTO rules expect agreements to cover all trade, not a few handpicked sectors”.

The full text of the speech is available.