Brexit notes photograph played down by government

The government has distanced itself from a Brexit memo caught on camera in Westminster.

The handwritten notes, carried by an aide to Conservative MP Mark Field, included “what’s the model? Have your cake and eat it” and “unlikely” in reference to the EU single market.

They were photographed after Mr Field and his aide left a meeting with the Brexit department at 9 Downing Street.

The government said the notes did not reflect its Brexit position.

“These individual notes do not belong to a government official or a special adviser. They do not reflect the government’s position in relation to Brexit negotiations,” a spokesman said.

Captured on long-lens camera by photographer Steve Back, they refer to difficulties the government faces after it begins the formal two-year process of EU withdrawal next year.

“Difficult on article 50 implementation – Barnier wants to see what deal looks like first,” they note in an apparent reference to the lead EU negotiator Michel Barnier.

“Got to be done in parallel – 20 odd negotiations. Keep the two years. Won’t provide more detail. We think it’s unlikely we’ll be offered single market,” they also say.

The notes appear to suggest that a transitional arrangement – which would allow the UK continued access to the single market after Brexit while it negotiates a new trade deal – is also unlikely.

“Transitional – loath to do it. Whitehall will hold onto it. We need to bring an end to negotiations,” the paper reads.

Mr Field is the vice-chairman of the Conservative Party and the MP for Cities of London and Westminster.

It is not clear whom he and his aide had been meeting, or whether the notes reflected what they had been told or what they had planned to say.

The government has refused to reveal details of its Brexit negotiation strategy in advance, saying it will not offer a “running commentary”.

Debate has focused on the level of access the UK could secure to the single market, and whether this would come at the price of greater immigration controls.

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