Brexit Secretary David Davis has been slapped down by Number 10 just 24 hours after his debut as a cabinet minister in the House of Commons yesterday (5 September). Downing Street sought to distance Theresa May's government from Davis' comments on the EU's single-market.
The senior Conservative suggested that the UK would have to avoid membership of the trading area because Britain would have to sign-up to free movement of people rules.
"The simple truth is that if a requirement of membership is giving up control of our borders, I think that makes it very improbable," Davis told MPs.
But a Number 10 spokesperson has claimed the Brexit Secretary was expressing his personal opinions at the dispatch box.
"He is setting out his view – his view - that it is improbable. The work on this is ongoing," the official told the Press Association.
"The Prime Minister wants to have the work under way. She recognises that people have differing views. That's why we need to do the work that there is. All of this is going to have to be negotiated with our European partners, but we should go after the best deal we can."
Stephen Gethins, the SNP's European spokesman at Westminster, claimed the apparent mix-up meant the government was in "utter confusion" over their Brexit plans.
"It merely confirms the widespread view that this is an incompetent Tory government that hasn't the first clue about what it is doing on the EU – and is now descending into farce," Gethins said.
"It is ridiculous that after a full two months waiting to get even the barest bones of what their Brexit plans are, ministers are still 'just expressing opinions'. If the Brexit Secretary doesn't know what government policy on Brexit is then who does? It is ludicrous.
''There is clearly utter confusion at the heart of the UK government and on a matter so desperately important – with businesses and people across the UK as a whole looking for some degree of clarity – that is deeply worrying.
'It is also unsustainable. The UK government must urgently bring forward a clear and concise plan on what 'Brexit means Brexit' actually means."
May, meanwhile, has revealed that she will not trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty – the official mechanism to split from the EU – this year. The Conservative premier has also risked a backlash from Brexit backers after ruling out adopting an Australian-style visa system, an initiative endorsed by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and the Vote Leave campaign ahead of the EU referendum.
"Yes, the voters' message on the 23 June was clearly that they didn't want to see free movement continuing as it had done up until now, they wanted to some control in movement of people from the European Union into the UK," May said. "But we also want to get the best deal possible for trade in goods a services with the EU. I intend to go out there and be ambitious."