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British Prime Minister Theresa May has managed to secure a cabinet agreement for her Brexit plans aimed at pressing for "a free trade area for goods" with the European Union. May persuaded the most vocal Brexit campaigners in her cabinet to support her plans during an hours-long meeting at her Chequers country residence on Friday. She seemed to have overcome rift among her ministers to win support for "a business-friendly" proposal drawn up to spur stalled Brexit talks. "Today in detailed discussions the cabinet has agreed our collective position for the future of our negotiations with the EU," May said in a statement. "Now we must all move at pace to negotiate our proposal with the EU to deliver the prosperous and secure future all our people deserve."
The proposal, which states Britain's large services sector will not have the current levels of access to EU markets, will not come soon enough for Brussels, which has been pressing May to come up with a detailed vision for future relations. Ministers outlined the government's position in a document, saying they had agreed that an earlier proposal made to the EU "needed to evolve in order to provide a precise, responsible and credible basis for progressing negotiations". The new proposal would see Britain having a "common rulebook for all goods" in a combined customs territory and would enable Britain to set its own import tariffs and seal new free trade deals.
At the meeting, they also agreed that parliament would have the authority to decide whether to abide by EU rules and regulations in the future, and the government would step up preparations for the eventuality of a “no deal” exit. Senior EU officials, who say the UK has no chance of changing the bloc’s founding principles, have already dismissed a draft document outlining Britain’s future relationship with the European Union after exiting the EU as unrealistic. The document, to be published on Friday, is set to propose the UK stays indefinitely in a single market for goods after Brexit. But EU officials who have seen drafts of the long-awaited British white paper said the proposal would never be accepted.
White papers have no legal weight and do not become law themselves. Instead, they form the basis on which Parliament drafts a legislation. UK Prime Minister Theresa May is gathering ministers on Friday for a one-day discussion to resolve the UK’s future relationship with the EU. An EU source accused the UK of wanting to "have its cake and eat it." The insider said, "We read the white paper and we read 'cake'," a reference to UK foreign minister Boris Johnson’s one-liner of being “pro having [cake] and pro-eating it.”
Since Britain’s EU referendum in 2016, “cake” has entered the Brussels lexicon to describe anything seen as an unrealistic or far-fetched demand. May’s white paper is expected to propose that UK remains indefinitely in the EU single market after Brexit, to avoid the need for checks at the Irish border. While the UK is offering concessions on financial services, it wants restrictions on free movement of people.
Jean-Claude Piris, a former head of the EU council’s legal service, said it would be impossible for the EU to split the “four freedoms” underpinning the bloc’s internal market, which are written into the 1957 treaty that founded the European project: free movement of goods, services, capital and people. Britain's Environment Secretary Michael Gove has urged Eurosceptic Conservative MPs to back a compromise Brexit plan as the best chance of a "proper" exit from the European Union. Gove, one of the highest-profile Brexit campaigners in the cabinet, on Sunday endorsed Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan to keep Britain in a free trade zone for goods with the EU.
The minister said he was a "realist" and dismissed claims it would leave the UK as a "vassal state.” “I am a realist,” Gove told the BBC. “One of the things about politics is that you mustn’t, you shouldn’t, make the perfect the enemy of the good. And one of the things about this compromise is that it unites the cabinet,” he added. But he also told the EU to be more generous or Britain could walk away without a deal.