THE UK Government is preparing for “every eventuality” on Brexit, including getting no deal with Brussels, Theresa May told MPs as two new White Papers were published by Whitehall on trade and customs.

And in a Commons statement following her keynote speech in Florence, the Prime Minister raised Eurosceptic hackles when she suggested that the UK could, during the proposed two-year post-Brexit implementation period, still be subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

In her first public statement since the woes of her party conference speech, Mrs May stressed how the new policy papers would pave the way for Britain to operate as an "independent trading nation" after withdrawal, even without a trade deal.

Loading article content

Amid continued Labour barracking, the embattled Conservative leader claimed "real and tangible progress" had been made in the Brexit talks but the ball was now in the EU’s court; a sentiment denied by Brussels, which insisted the ball was “entirely in the UK’s court”.

In the Commons, the PM declared: "While it is profoundly in all our interests for the negotiations to succeed, it is also our responsibility as a Government to prepare for every eventuality; so, that is exactly what we are doing.

"These White Papers also support that work, including setting out steps to minimise disruption for businesses and travellers."

But Jeremy Corbyn insisted 15 months on from the referendum, time had been wasted and no real progress had been made.

“The question must be asked: what on earth has the Government been doing all this time?”

The Labour leader complained how when the country was looking for real progress on the Brexit talks, senior members of the Cabinet were squabbling and “at each other’s throats”.

He added: “If they can’t negotiate for Britain, they should make way for a team that can.”

Ian Blackford for the SNP, complaining that there was no mention in the PM’s statement of the devolved administrations, described the current situation on Brexit as “critical”.

The Highland MP urged her to make a universal declaration that EU citizens in the UK would have their rights protected “no ifs not buts; do it today”.

Mrs May, who is due shortly to have a bilateral summit with Nicola Sturgeon, pointed to a meeting next week of the intergovernmental JMC on Brexit.

To angry responses from the SNP benches, she told Mr Blackford: “Can I just remind him during the Scottish independence referendum…the First Minister told EU nationals that if the EU did not allow an independent Scotland to rejoin, which is clear they would not do, they would lose the right to stay here.”

Later, Mrs May made clear how during the two-year implementation period Britain's access to the single market and customs union access should operate on the "same rules and regulations" as now.

Responding to Conservative colleague, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who sought reassurance that in that period, the European Court of Justice’s writ would not run “in any way” in Britain, the PM raised Tory eyebrows by saying: “Yes, that may mean we start off with the ECJ still governing the rules we are part of for that period.”

She stressed it was "highly unlikely" any new EU laws would come into operation during the implementation period yet did not rule out the possibility that, any which did, would take effect in Britain.