Theresa May is battling to see off a revolt as her cabinet gathers for a critical Chequers summit, after Boris Johnson convened a meeting of pro-Brexit ministers to discuss their options amid an atmosphere of tension and recrimination.
The government was forced to deny “selective leaks” that appeared to suggest that the UK could struggle to strike a trade deal with the US in the future.
No 10 insisted that paperwork released to ministers ahead of Friday’s Brexit meeting at Chequers said just the opposite, as a caucus of seven cabinet members – Johnson, Michael Gove, Penny Mordaunt, David Davis, Esther McVey, Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom – met at the Foreign Office to discuss their concerns.
An early leak suggested that the UK should “maintain a common rulebook” with the European Union on food and farming standards and that could make striking a trade deal with the more free market-oriented US more difficult as a result.
That prompted a series of complaints from backbench Tory MPs and led to the Thursday evening meeting at the Foreign Office hosted by Johnson, the foreign secretary.
Sources at No 10 said there had been selective leaks from the paperwork and the controversial passage appeared on page 15 out of 50 from one of several documents sent to all members of the cabinet.
The sources said the paperwork simply reflected the fact that British consumers wanted high food standards and that this could be a sticking point in trade talks with the US. “[This] would not allow the UK to accommodate a likely ask from the US in a future trade deal,” the paperwork said.
The previous sentence from the same document makes explicit that sticking closely to EU standards did not rule out the possibility of signing free trade deals with other countries. It reads: “A commitment to the single standards model [with the EU] would not be a barrier to accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership.”
The summit at Chequers, the Buckinghamshire retreat of the prime minister, is due to begin shortly after 10am. It is intended that members of the cabinet will sign off a white paper due to be published next week outlining the government’s post-Brexit strategy.
With No 10 on alert about the possibility of further leaks throughout Friday, ministers will be asked to hand in their phones and any smartwatches on arrival at Chequers.
Buildup to the summit has been dominated by Tory infighting over trade. May’s team is hoping to end a customs deadlock with a new “facilitated customs arrangement” proposal in which the UK levy would have its own tariffs on goods entering or leaving the country and refund the difference if the products were destined for elsewhere in the EU.
Downing Street’s attempt at reassurance came after complaints from backbench Tory MPs voicing concern about the proposed regulatory alignment, following a leak to the Spectator magazine.
David Jones, a former Brexit minister, said: “This is entirely unacceptable … This is not what people voted for in 2016. This is not Brexit.”
He told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme he added: “The prime minister has made clear that there are three principal red lines in these negotiations: no single market, no customs union, and no jurisdiction of the European court of justice. It does seem to me that all those three red lines would be breached by what is being proposed today.”
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the backbench European Research Group, said: “If this is correct this is not Brexit. This common rulebook means that we are essentially a vassal state.” He suggested that May should simply “tear up” the paper.
Meanwhile, cabinet members who support a soft Brexit indicated that they intended to fight their corner. Prominent soft Brexiters include Philip Hammond, the chancellor; Cabinet Office minister David Lidington; Greg Clark, business secretary; and Karen Bradley, Northern Ireland secretary.
The pro-European former education secretary, Nicky Morgan, urged Brexiters in cabinet to get behind May’s proposal or resign. “If what appears to be on the table is agreed then we are leaving the European Union, we are taking back control, gaining sovereignty,” she said. “Today is very important because I do think the cabinet has got to come up with an agreed position … If somebody says I just cannot live with this. This is not what I want. Then yes I think they would have to think about their position.”
On Thursday night, May released a statement saying the cabinet would meet “to agree the shape of our future relationship with the European Union”. She said it was time “for another step forward” and highlighted plans to strike international trade deals.
“We want a deal that allows us to deliver the benefits of Brexit – taking control of our borders, laws and money and by signing ambitious new trade deals with countries like the US, Australia and New Zealand,” May added.
Earlier, May flew to Berlin to meet the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. No 10 insisted that Merkel was not given a detailed preview of Friday’s cabinet discussions, although May had said the UK was about to propose “a substantial way forward” that would “enable the pace and intensity of negotiations to increase”.
It also emerged that separately, Germany’s interior minister, Horst Seehofer, had last week written to the EU saying that its rigid Brexit negotiating strategy was making it difficult to strike a security deal with the UK.
There has been speculation that the Chequers summit could could be marred by cabinet resignations. However, any minister who quits on the spot would lose access to their ministerial car, meaning that they would have to walk several miles to the nearest train station.
- British Pound Sterling Drops to US$1.31 After Theresa May Warns of Brexit Impasse
- Theresa May soldiers on amid ongoing Brexit rebellion
- PM May in USA: Prez Sez Brexit ‘Will Be a Fantastic Thing’
- Brexit has threatened the peace in Northern Ireland
- Broken Brexit promises threaten to turn back the clock on Northern Ireland’s fragile peace
- Northern Ireland: Broken Brexit promises threaten to turn back the clock on fragile peace
- Could Arlene Foster be the DUP's scapegoat for Boris Johnson's Brexit 'betrayal'?
- U.S. support key to post-Brexit stability, Ireland's Martin says before Biden summit
- COP26 climate change summit may have to be postponed again - or radically changed - due to COVID
- Biden Urges World Leaders to Keep Promises on Climate Following Summit
- Is Forever Camp-Cringe Royalty
- Northern Ireland: Violence continues another night after leaders condemn 'unjustifiable' unrest
- Why did Boris Johnson risk this Domsday scenario with Dominic Cummings?
- Nicola Sturgeon vows £10million fund for companies to trial a FOUR day week… if she wins Scottish election
- Irish PM: Northern Ireland must stick with single market rules
- Covid-19: Britain adds 4 more countries to travel ban list
- Tensions Flare in Northern Ireland as Unionists Clash With Police
- After report finds racism against WWI martyrs, UK govt offers apology
- How Boris Johnson personally phoned newspaper editors to blame Dominic Cummings for leaking against him
- British PM cancels India visit due to COVID crisis
Theresa May battles to see off revolt ahead of Friday's Brexit summit have 1204 words, post on www.theguardian.com at July 6, 2018. This is cached page on Konitono.News. If you want remove this page, please contact us.