Britain’s Brexit minister has come under criticism after admitting he "hadn't quite understood the full extent" to which UK trade was "reliant on the Dover-Calais crossing".
Dominic Raab told a tech industry meeting in London yesterday: "I don't think it is a question so much of the risk of major shortages, but I think probably the average consumer might not be aware of the full extent to which the choice of goods that we have in the stores are dependent on one or two very specific trade routes."
Scientist Brian Cox took to Twitter to ask: "How could it possibly come as a surprise to Dominic Raab that our most important trade gateway is that which is closest geographically to our most important market?"
‘Is it possible’, Minister Raab asks his closest advisors, ‘that this big blob of land here’ - jabbing at a map with his croissant - ‘over this little channel of sea just off the coast of Dover, might be important in the context of this brexity thing we’re doing?’ https://t.co/lscHnuc3JL— Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox) November 8, 2018
Labour Brexit spokeswoman Jenny Chapman asked: "How are we meant to trust this government to deliver a good deal for the country when we have a Brexit Secretary who doesn't even understand the very basics of Brexit?"
Scottish National Party MSP Stewart Stevenson said: "This is a stunning admission that shows just how clueless the Tories are about their Brexit plans.
"A Tory Brexit could have a catastrophic impact on trade with the continent and leave supermarket shelves empty."
Meanwhile, Downing Street has played down suggestions that a Brexit deal is imminent, after European Council President Donald Tusk appeared to indicate a breakthrough could come within the next week.
A senior UK government source said that reports in the European media that a deal could come in the next few days should be taken "with a very large pinch of salt".
Austria's Der Standard newspaper quoted European Commission sources at a summit in Finland as saying that EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier and Mr Raab could meet in the next few days to seal an agreement and pave the way for a special summit of EU leaders in Brussels on 25 November.
Asked about the prospects of a breakthrough in the coming week, Mr Tusk told Channel 4 News: "I hope so ... but still we need maybe five, maybe six, maybe seven days."
A Downing Street source stressed that no agreement had yet been reached and no Cabinet meeting scheduled.
"We are still in negotiations, and on that basis we don't know when and if this will conclude," he said.