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Cabinet agrees EU peace deal as Theresa May faces down Brexit rebels

Cabinet agrees EU peace deal as Theresa May faces down Brexit rebels
3 min read

Theresa May has faced down her Cabinet critics to secure a peace deal on Brexit which she claimed would ensure a "prosperous and secure future all our people deserve".

Following a marathon summit at her Chequers country residence, the Prime Minister won backing for her plan to effectively keep Britain in the EU single market for goods, but not for services.

A document produced by the Government and agreed at the meeting said the new "free trade area" betwee Britain and the EU would "avoid friction at the border, protect jobs and livelihoods, and ensure both sides meet their commitments to Northern Ireland and Ireland".

In a major victory, Mrs May also persuaded Brexiteer ministers to sign up to a so-called "Facilitated Customs Arrangement", which would see the UK collect tariffs on behalf of the EU on goods passing through Britain on their way to the continent.

The Cabinet also agreed to maintain "a common rulebook for all goods" with the EU, and to draw up a legal treaty to ensure "ongoing harmonisation" with European regulations.

"Parliament would have oversight of the incorporation of these rules into the UK’s legal order – with the ability to choose not to do so, recognising that this would have consequences," the Government document said.

"We would strike different arrangements for services, where it is in our interests to have regulatory flexibility, recognising the UK and the EU will not have current levels of access to each other’s markets."

Elsewhere, the Cabinet also pledged that Britain would not allow maintain the same standards as the EU on the environment, climate change, social and employment, and consumer protection.

The document said the Government proposal "would have distinct benefits for both the UK and the EU, and that it would enable both sides to have trust and confidence in each other’s commitments – allowing for the creation of an ambitious relationship that nonetheless respected the UK’s sovereignty and the EU’s autonomy". 

Mrs May said: "Our proposal will create a UK - EU free trade area which establishes a common rule book for industrial goods and agricultural products. This maintains high standards in these areas, but we will also ensure that no new changes in the future take place without the approval of our Parliament.

"As a result, we avoid friction in terms of trade, which protects jobs and livelihoods, as well as meeting our commitments in Northern Ireland.

"We have also agreed a new business-friendly customs model with freedom to strike new trade deals around the world.

"Next week we will be publishing a white paper which will set out more details of how we will be taking back control of our money, laws and borders.

"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."

Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer said the agreement was "a sticking plaster" over deep Tory splits on Brexit.

 “It is farcical that it has taken two years for the Cabinet to even attempt to agree a position on the basics of our future relationship with the EU.

"On previous form, whatever has apparently been agreed will struggle to survive contact with Tory MPs and members.

"This looks like a sticking plaster rather than the Government’s final position. With just a matter of months of the negotiations left, Theresa May’s ability to deliver Brexit continues to be in doubt."

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