Major Leave donor warns Britain could be left STUCK with interim Brexit deal for DECADES

A MAJOR Leave donor has called on the Government to resist an interim Brexit deal with Brussels warning Britain could be left stuck with a short-term arrangement for decades.

John MillsGETTY

Major Leave donor John Mills told Theresa May to limit the number of interim Brexit arrangments

Millionaire businessman John Mills, who bankrolled the Labour Leave campaign during the EU referendum, urged the Prime Minister to constrict the number of transitional agreements struck during divorce talks.

Chancellor Philip Hammond recently publicly backed a transitional Brexit deal at the end of two-year Article 50 negotiations, although Theresa May has since suggested such an arrangement would be limited to “simple practical matters”.

Mr Mills highlighted the fate of Norway as he cautioned against Britain reaching a half-way Brexit deal.

In 1972, Norwegians rejected the chance to join the former European Community, the forerunner to the EU, but later joined the European Economic Area (EEA) in 1994.

Speaking to reporters recently, Mr Mills warned the UK not to copy Norway’s politicians with a midway agreement once voters have rebuffed full EU membership.He said: “Norway finished up with transitional arrangements that in the end got turned into the EEA in 1994 – more than 20 years after their referendum. And they’re still there.

“The EEA was really a stepping-stone to full membership, which hasn’t happened between 1972 and 2016, over 40 years.”

Mr Mills also suggested transitional arrangements would not be any easier to negotiate than a full exit deal, as he said Britain should be “as far as possible limiting whatever transitional arrangements you’ve got to a relatively small number of areas”.

If you’ve got no bolthole at all in negotiations, you’re in a very weak position.

John Mills

The entrepreneur, also a major donor to the Labour Party, criticised the Government for being “reclusive and secretive” about its Brexit plans as he claimed Britain has a “comparatively narrow” range of options following the EU referendum result.Mr Mills claimed it will be “very difficult” for Britain to remain in the EU Single Market in order to “satisfy the outcome of the referendum” due to voters’ wishes to see the implementation of immigration controls and an end to the power of EU judges.

EU leaders have consistently warned remaining a member of the Single Market would require Britain to retain the bloc’s four freedoms, including freedom of movement, leading Mr Mills to argue it would not be sensible for the Government to even ask to stay in the Single Market.

Instead, Mr Mills suggested the Government chase a free trade deal with the bloc but then to opt back into the Single Market for certain parts of the UK economy such as the car industry, aviation and elements of the dominant services sector.

The longtime eurosceptic, best known for his consumer products company JML, insisted the EU could agree to such a deal as mostly excluding Britain from the Single Market would be seen as a big enough “punishment” to the UK for the Brexit vote.

But Mr Mills called on the Government to also draw up contingency plans to fall back on World Trade Organisation terms for future trade with the EU – despite not being the ideal option –  in order to put pressure on the remaining 27 member states to agree a deal in case ”negotiations run into the sand”.

He said: “If you’ve got no bolthole at all in negotiations, you’re in a very weak position.”Mr Mills argued allowing Britain to remain in the Single Market on a sector-by-sector basis would be “enormously in the interest” of the EU, especially for “big car manufacturers in Germany, France and Italy”.

He said: “It all depends to some extent on how pragmatic people are and to what extent they all get stuck on punishment trajectories.

“But for something like the car industry, it seems to me so obvious that it’s in everybody’s interest to have something like that.”

Mr Mills suggested once pre-negotiation “grandstanding” had ended, major car-producing countries such as Germany would “lean on” smaller countries such as Croatia on issues like immigration in order to reach a Brexit deal.

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