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25th-Sep-2016

Splits in May`s Cabinet leave world guessing on Brexit

By AFP, London

Divisions in Prime Minister Theresa May's Cabinet generated confusion over Brexit Friday after a series of mixed messages on how and when Britain will leave the European Union.
Following an interview with Sky News in which he said that Britain planned to begin formal Brexit talks early next year, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson was quickly put in his place by May's office on Thursday.
"The government's position has not changed-we will not trigger Article 50 before the end of 2016," a Downing Street spokesman said, referring to the EU treaty article outlining how a member state leaves.
May has deliberately kept the public message vague, saying only that "Brexit means Brexit", she is aiming for the "best deal" and would not provide any further commentary before Britain triggers the exit procedure.
But it is clear that there are differences of opinion in her government between those who favour "hard" Brexit-quickly severing all links with EU institutions-and "soft" Brexit-which could retain access to the single market.
"Day after day after day, the differences and the nuances of difference between those who are at the top of the party and different ministers, and the prime minister, have become very, very clear," London School of Economics professor Tony Travers said.
The Spectator magazine's Tom Goodenough wrote: "By keeping shtum (quiet) about Brexit and pledging that there will be 'no running commentary' on Article 50, the prime minister may have saved herself the trouble of worrying about having to go back on her words.
"But she has also created a Brexit vacuum. And it's no surprise that the likes of Boris are trying to fill the gap," he said.
Former London mayor Johnson, once seen as a top contender to be prime minister, had already ruffled feathers in Downing Street when he appeared in a video by eurosceptic pressure group "Change Britain".
"Now more than ever, we need to show the British people that as politicians we are listening to what they have to say," he said in the video message.
"Brexit means Brexit and that means delivering on their instructions and restoring UK control over our laws, borders, money and trade," he said.
Brexit minister David Davis was also rebuked this month for saying it was "very improbable" Britain would stay in the single market.
"He's setting out his view that it's improbable," May's spokeswoman said afterwards, adding that the premier "recognises that people have their differing views".