Disgraced former UK International Development Secretary Priti Patel has cautioned the country is "ill-equipped" for Brexit talks and must take a firmer line with Brussels — by telling EU leaders to "sod off" over the divorce bill.
Speaking at an event in London organised by The Spectator magazine, Ms. Patel said: "The Government has been ill-equipped in terms of preparations for the negotiations… It's not an ideal state at all."
Patel went on to slam Theresa May's administration for not properly articulating the economic opportunities she feels leaving the European Union offers.
"We should have had conviction and clarity in terms of our end state and destination and presented that and been pretty forthright about it as well. My views on money are pretty clear, I don't like spending money so I would have told the EU in particular to sod off with their excessive financial demands," the shamed ex-minister continued.
While acknowledging May was leading in "very challenging circumstances" and "struggling with a difficult set of cards post the election," Patel contended the government was failing to set out its Brexit vision with any clarity.
"What are the economic opportunities for the City of London and for many other businesses and sectors in terms of leading out in the world and potentially trading with countries we have simply not been engaged with for not just years but for decades? The world is changing, the labour market is changing," she concluded.
The broadside comes mere days before May is scheduled to travel to Brussels, and attempt to persuade the EU to move onto the new phase of talks, covering trade and transition. Deepening rows over key initial barriers to talks, such as the Irish border — the Republic signaled it would veto moves to trade talks without further guarantees against a "hard border" on the island — and citizens rights have precluded discussions about trade deals and the like from proceeding.
Social Media Reactions
Response to the resurfaced ex-minister's intervention on social media has been less than positive.
Priti Patel showing her inability to understand that a) it's for money that we have already agreed to pay — ie we now owe it, and b) telling people to 'sod off' because you want out of your agreement is not a great example to future trade partners. pic.twitter.com/AatjKJNVYl— Alexis Conran (@alexisconran) November 28, 2017
Priti Patel tells the EU to "sod off" over payments. Nice. Bound to help negotiations and future relationships with our close neighbours. Was there a mad suggestion she has leadership ambitions?— Polly Toynbee (@pollytoynbee) November 28, 2017
Priti Patel, who's 2015-16 expenses totaled £134,138.34, claims she "doesn't like to spend money."— The Satire Party 🎭 (@TheSatireParty) November 28, 2017
Why has Priti Patel not had the whip removed? Imagine for a second if it was a Labour MP even a back-bencher in opposition having unauthorised meetings with Russian politicians/diplomats. The media pressure to have whip removed would have been gargantuan! #SpecTories— Williamos (@Williamos6) November 27, 2017
Priti Patel resigned in disgrace 19 days ago. Her views on anything are of public interest why, exactly?— The Jonn Elledge continues (@JonnElledge) November 27, 2017
Patel was unceremoniously forced from her ministry after the BBC revealed she had attended meetings in Israel in August 2017 without informing the Foreign Office, in breach of the ministerial code. The Prime Minister was also not apprised of the assorted rendezvous.
Following the meetings, Patel recommended the Department for International Development give international aid money to field hospitals run by the Israeli army in the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights region of Syria. Although these hospitals have been described by UK officials as "providing medical support" for Syrian refugees, Israeli officials have refused to identify whether they in fact treat rebel forces.
The meetings were exposed while Patel was again away from the UK — after Downing Street summoned her back to the country to explain herself, in an extraordinary turn thousands tracked her flight online.
Patel resigned November 8, after 16 months in the post. She was replaced by pro-Brexit MP Penny Mordaunt the following day. In her resignation letter, the Witham MP made clear she would be outspoken about Brexit from the backbenches.