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Brexit negotiating team to drop ‘have cake and eat it’ approach – report

3 min read

The UK’s Brexit negotiating team are reportedly planning to ditch plans for a “have cake and eat it” approach in which Britain seeks unfettered single market access without trade-offs on areas such as immigration.

The sentiment of the phrase used and backed by Boris Johnson last year, has been backed by both Theresa May’s team and the Labour leadership – with Jeremy Corbyn sacking three frontbenchers for backing outright single market membership last week.

Some of the positions in Mrs May’s Lancaster House speech - where she set out a 12 point plan that would seek tariff-free access to Europe’s market while shoring up Britain’s borders – could now be shelved as a result of a changing mood in talks and a shake-up to the Prime Minister’s staff, according to the Guardian.

“We have a problem in that really there are only two viable options,” one Government official told the newspaper.

“One is a high-access, low-control arrangement which looks a bit like the EEA. The other is a low-access, high-control arrangement where you eventually end up looking like Ceta – a more classic free trade agreement, if you are lucky.

“Of course the policy position remains the Lancaster House speech which says what we want is a high-access, high-control situation, but the author of that speech (reported to be Downing Street adviser Nick Timothy) is no longer in an influential position.”

Another senior official reportedly said business leaders were becoming more confident in arguing the case for keeping Britain in the customs union.

“What we’ve seen post-election is that business voices that had felt bullied into silence pre-election are recovering their voice,” they said.

“The economic arguments that had got lost in the last six months are now being heard again and those who had tried to railroad this by saying you are talking your country down are being given a run for their money.

Asked to respond to reports of ministers now being forced to consider a trade-off, a DExEU spokesman said they “did not recognise the language”.


Elsewhere, Liberal Democrat leadership candidate Vince Cable said a “hard core” of more than 100 opposition MPs who last week backed an amendment for Britain to remain in the single market could eventually be joined by swathes of Tories.

“Most people in parliament accept that extreme forms of Brexit aren’t desirable. We are in a very unusual position where the leadership of the two main parties are committed to something very different from many of their own supporters," he said in an interview with i newspaper.

“There is an instability there which cannot survive much longer.”

The former Business Secretary in the Coalition government said: “I don’t know what the trigger is going to be, but at some point a lot of those Remain Tories who are deeply, deeply unhappy about the way the government is heading will cut free. The potential is there for a big revolt.

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