May’s Brexit vic­tory

Cabi­net fi­nally ap­proves ‘busi­ness friendly’ plan

The Sunday Times - - World - LONDON

BRI­TISH Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May has won cabi­net ap­proval for her plans to leave the Euro­pean Union, with a “a busi­ness friendly” pro­posal aimed at spurring stalled Brexit talks.

Af­ter a long meet­ing at her coun­try res­i­dence, May per­suaded her cabi­net’s most vo­cal Brexit cam­paign­ers to back her plan to press for “a free trade area for goods” with the EU and main­tain close trade ties.

The pro­posal — which also says Bri­tain’s big 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 ties.

But the hard-won com­pro­mise may yet fall flat with EU ne­go­tia­tors.

By also com­mit­ting to end­ing free move­ment of peo­ple, the supremacy of the Euro­pean court and “vast” pay­ments to the bloc, May could be ac­cused of “cherry pick­ing” the best bits of the EU by Brus­sels of­fi­cials, who are de­ter­mined to send a strong sig­nal to other coun­tries not to fol­low Bri­tain out of the door.

The EU’s chief Brexit ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier wel­comed the agree­ment but added on Twit­ter: “We will as­sess pro­pos­als to see if they are work­able and re­al­is­tic.”

For now, May, who has been writ­ten off by crit­ics since los­ing her Con­ser­va­tive Party’s par­lia­men­tary ma­jor­ity in an ill-judged elec­tion last year, will be buoyed by the hard-won agree­ment.

“To­day in de­tailed dis­cus­sions the cabi­net has agreed our col­lec­tive po­si­tion for the fu­ture of our ne­go­ti­a­tions with the EU,” May said. “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.”

Min­is­ters 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”.

In­stead, they would ne­go­ti­ate for a “free trade area for goods” in a com­bined cus­toms ter­ri­tory. This would al­low Bri­tain to set its own im­port tar­iffs and seal new free trade deals.

They also agreed that Par­lia­ment would have the power to de­cide whether to fol­low EU rules in the fu­ture, and the Gov­ern­ment would step up prepa­ra­tions for the even­tu­al­ity of a “no deal” exit.

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