Those scribbled Brexit notes: what they mean

It’s been over five months since the EU referendum and the Tories are still unable or unwilling to publish a plan for Brexit.

The only detail the public now have on their strategy are some scribbled notes from a Downing Street meeting with senior Tories – notes that were never meant to be seen.

The fact that Downing Street is desperately attempting to downplay these revelations is simply because they have hit a little too close to home.

Here’s what those scribbled notes mean. 

“We think it’s unlikely we’ll be offered single market.”

Since the EU referendum, the Tories at Westminster have refused to say whether or not they back the UK remaining in the single market.

The note states that “we think it’s unlikely we’ll be offered single market.”

This confirms that the UK government is intent on the hardest of hard Tory Brexits.

A ‘hard Brexit’, outside the single market, would be disastrous for Scotland’s economy. Analysis shows a potential cost to the Scottish economy of up to £11.2 billion per year by 2030. And the independent Fraser of Allander Institute has forecast that Brexit could cost Scotland up to 80,000 jobs within a decade. Read more about why the single market is so important here.


“Transitional – loathe to do it. Whitehall will hold onto it. We need to bring an end to negotiations.”

The notes appear to rule out a transitional deal – meaning we could be out of the single market even before a new trade deal is concluded. Bizarrely, the notes seem to suggest “bringing an end to negotiations” that, by the Tories own account, are yet to begin.

“What’s the model? Have your cake and eat it.”

The chaos at the heart of the Tories Brexit strategy is confirmed by the notes, which suggest they have no direction and no clue.

Boris Johnson, foreign secretary, previously said of UK government approach to Brexit negotiations that “our policy is having our cake and eating it”, meaning free trade with the EU without accepting free movement.

Decision-makers in Europe don’t agree. Here’s just some of what they have to say.

The EU

Donald Tusk, President of the EU Council, has said that membership of the single market “requires acceptance of all four EU freedoms – including freedom of movement. There can be no single market à la carte.”

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission has said: “those who want to have free access to our internal market have to implement our freedoms without exceptions and without nuances”.

Guy Verhofstadt, the lead Brexit negotiator for the European Parliament has said: “As you know, the position of the Parliament is very clear. The position has always been that if the UK wants to remain part of the single market it will also have to accept the free movement of citizens because, in the opinion of the Parliament, these four freedoms of the union are inseparable.”


President Hollande has said that for the UK to remain in the single market it must accept free movement: “There cannot be freedom of movement of goods, free movement of capital, free movement of services if there isn’t a free movement of people…It will be a choice facing the UK – remain in the single market and then assume the free movement that goes with it or to have another status.”


Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany said: “whoever would like to have free access to the European internal market will also have to accept all basic freedoms in return, including the free movement of people.”

Wolfgang Schäuble, German Finance Minister said: “We’ll happily send her majesty’s foreign minister a copy of the Lisbon treaty.

“He can then read about the fact that there’s a certain connection between the single market and the four freedoms. At a pinch, I can talk about it in English.”


Matteo Renzi, the Italian Prime Minister, said it is impossible “to speak only about [the] single market and not accept a politics about migration.”


Enda Kenny, Ireland’s Taoiseach, said: “The best place that Britain would be to have access to the single market, as is now, but that means they must accept one of the fundamental principles, which is migration and free movement of people,”


Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven has said “you cannot have free movement of goods and services and capital and not people,” and that “the Union doesn’t work like that and there will be differences if they are not members.”


The Prime Minister of Luxembourg Xavier Bettel has said: “They [the UK government] want to have their cake, eat it, and get a smile from the baker, but not the other things. There are European values which cannot be separated. No cherry picking.”