Leaked document reignites fears government is planning to make UK 'Singapore-on-Thames' after Brexit

PUBLISHED: 12:30 26 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:21 26 October 2019

Prime minister Boris Johnson visits a hospital. Photograph: Toby Melville/PA Wire.

Prime minister Boris Johnson visits a hospital. Photograph: Toby Melville/PA Wire.

There are fears in some quarters of the EU - and especially in Berlin - that Boris Johnson is preparing to reform Britain into 'Singapore-on-Thames', a low-tax, lightly regulated economy on the edge of Europe, once it has left.

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According to the FT's report, a leaked Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) document said the way the political declaration - the agreement setting out the aims of the future trade negotiations between the UK and the EU - had drafted the workers' rights and environmental protection commitments left "room for interpretation".

It boasted that "UK negotiators successfully resisted the inclusion of all UK-wide level playing-field rules" compared to Theresa May's deal.

Johnson this week told MPs the UK was committed to "the highest possible standards" on both sets of standards - a stance that helped to convince 19 Labour MPs to back his Withdrawal Agreement Bill at second reading on Tuesday.

It has sparked concerns that the prime minister once again misled parliament - but a government minister has defended Johnson.

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Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng called the reports "way exaggerated" and would be "completely mad" from the government's perspective.

"It wouldn't make any sense at all to dilute workers' rights in building that coalition to land the bill," he told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme.

The document is said to boast that "UK negotiators successfully resisted the inclusion of all UK-wide level playing-field rules" in the previous deal negotiated by Theresa May's team, allowing Britain to compete against EU members by possibly watering down rights.

But Labour shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman said the documents, which reportedly had Downing Street input, "confirm our worst fears".

She said: "These documents confirm our worst fears. Boris Johnson's Brexit is a blueprint for a deregulated economy, which will see vital rights and protections torn up.

"It is also clear Boris Johnson was misleading parliament earlier this week. You simply can't trust a word Boris Johnson says. Under his proposals, this Conservative government has no intention of maintaining high standards after we leave the EU."

The Department for Exiting the European Union declined to comment on media reports.

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