Theresa May accused of "holding the country hostage" as she abandons Brexit white paper

Prime minister Theresa May Photo: PA

Theresa May has been accused of "holding the country hostage" as it emerged she has abandoned plans to publish a detailed blueprint of her government's Brexit plans.

Downing Street announced last month that the government was producing a white paper on its proposed future relationship with the EU, expected to be published ahead of a crunch summit at the end of June.

Brexit secretary David Davis hailed the document at the time as 'our most significant publication on the EU since the referendum', with aides briefing it would cover future trade, financial services regulation and customs relations.

But today it emerged it is now not likely to be published until after the summit, with whe document said to still be 'riddled with red ink' as the prime minister struggles to overcome warring factions in her cabinet over how to deal with customs rules and the Irish border.

Ms May's spokesman refused to confirm that the timetable would be met, only saying: 'I've not put a timeframe on it, other than we will bring it forward as soon as possible."

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Eloise Todd, CEO of anti-Brexit campaign group Best for Britain said: "Theresa May's plans are up in smoke and she's holding the country hostage by not publishing important information about what our country will look like after Brexit. This is May's vanishing white paper.

"We have limited time to make such a crucial decision, and the government's lack of accountability is a very dangerous pattern in such circumstances.

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"This car crash of a government cannot even produce reports they promise on time. How can we trust them with the biggest negotiation in modern history?".

When the white paper was announced last month, Brexiteers hailed it as the UK beginning to negotiate with Michel Barnier and his team on its terms.

Edwin Morgan, head of media relations at the Institute of Directors, one of a number of business bodies which held talks with Mrs May yesterday, said: 'Businesses need clarity about the government's objectives to help them to plan.

"Everything is still subject to negotiation with the EU, but we don't yet know what the UK will pushing for in key areas like customs.

'Our members want to know whether the government's forthcoming white paper will make clear their intentions on VAT, customs and regulatory alignment – to understand in what areas ministers foresee continued harmonisation with EU rules, and where they want freedom to diverge.'

Yesterday it emerged that Britain could stay in the European VAT area after the Brexit transition period, a move which could see one of Mrs May's so-called "red lines" crossed as it would continue to be bound by rules policed by the European Court of Justice.

Meanwhile the Conservatives were accused of "contempt for Parliament" as it emerged all 15 Lords amendments to the EU withdrawal bill will be debated in one marathon session next week.

A letter sent to Conservatives MPs by government chief whip Julian Smith announced that the amendments would be debated and voted on a week today (June 12).

Labour MP David Lammy said: "This shows total contempt of Parliament to try and railroad 15 amendments through Parliament in just a single session.

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