New vice-chair of Tory policy commission warns party over Brexit disunity

Communities secretary James Brokenshire sits with Mick Clarke, left, chief executive of The Passage, and Brian Ward, right (60), who has been a client of the homelessness charity for 19 years as MP Chris Skidmore urged Tory colleagues to return their focus from Brexit to domestic policies. Mr Brokenshire was speaking to volunteers and homeless people at the charity's base in central London as the government launched a £100 million plan to end rough sleeping on England's streets by 2027 PICTURE: Yui Mok/PA

A CONSERVATIVE vice-chairman has issued a warning to the party of the dangers of disunity over Brexit.

Chris Skidmore, who was appointed this month by Theresa May to chair the new Conservative Policy Commission, issued the warning as the October deadline approaches for agreement on the UK's withdrawal deal and a political declaration on the future UK/EU relationship.

Meanwhile, the "facilitated customs arrangement" at the heart of Mrs May's Chequers plan for Brexit was described as "fanciful" by one trade expert.

The government has claimed that 96 per cent of goods would pay little or no tariff at the border under the FCA scheme.

But Alan Winters, professor of economics at the UK Trade Policy Observatory at Sussex University, told The Times that this figure related to all trade, and the proportion for imports alone would be significantly lower.

"It is weird that they are using the whole of trade for the basis of their calculation when it is clear that it is only imports that will be affected and it has nothing at all to do with exports, " Prof Winters said.

"The idea that you would know where all finished goods being imported were headed also doesn't make sense.

"The whole thing when you analyse it is pretty fanciful."

Writing in the Daily Telegraph, the Kingswood MP warned feuding Remain and Leave Tories that the history of the 1990s demonstrated the "futility of members of the same political family prioritising division over our duty to serve the country".

He said that Conservatives must return their focus to domestic policies such as public services, tax and controlling welfare bills.

And he stressed that delivering on Brexit would not be the key to winning the next election.

"We must recognise the advantages that Brexit can bring, but let us never be defined by it," he said.

Analysis by consumer analytics company Focaldata of polls involving more than 15,000 people found that 341 out of 632 parliamentary seats in England Scotland and Wales now have a Remain majority.

The company found that 112 seats had switched from Leave to Remain since the 2016 referendum, 97 of them in England, 14 in Wales and one in Scotland.

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