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Fresh Tory Brexit row as Cabinet paper shows Theresa May's plan 'could thwart US trade deal’

3 min read

A fresh Tory Brexit row has broken out after a leaked paper suggested Theresa May's customs plan could stop Britain from sealing a post-Brexit trade deal with the United States.

Papers released to Cabinet members ahead of tomorrow’s crunch meeting at Chequers says the UK is preparing to agree on "harmonisation" of rules on goods between Britain and the EU.

The plan could undermine chances of a deal with the United States, which has long been hostile to EU regulations on standards for food imports.

A report in the Spectator said the paper detailed that "the UK should maintain a common rulebook for all goods including agri-food".

It goes on to say that the UK will make "an upfront choice to commit by treaty to ongoing harmonisation with EU rules on goods".

And it tees up a major row with Brexiteer ministers by going on to say such a deal "would not allow the UK to accommodate a likely ask from the US in a future trade deal" as the UK would be unable to recognise the US’s "array of standards".

Following the leak, arch-Brexiteer backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg told the Telegraph: "If this correct this is not Brexit. This common rulebook means that we are essentially a vassal state. This would be directly contrary to the Prime Minister's own assurances. The Prime Minister should imitate Mr Gove and tear up this paper."

Former Cabinet minister Owen Paterson said: "If true, a complete breach of Theresa May's manifesto commitment, reconfirmed to me at PMQs yesterday, to leave Single Market, Customs Union & ECJ. We could not eliminate tariffs to reduce prices for consumers & businesses, or strike free trade deals."

Meanwhile pro-Brexit MP Lucy Allan responded to the reported plans by tweeting "this is not Brexit".

A Downing Street spokesperson however said it was “categorically untrue” that the clause meant Britain could not tie up a deal with the US.

"The PM has always been clear that we will seek a comprehensive and ambitious trade deal with the US that reflects the strength of our trading and investment relationship, and as you know the president has also made it clear that he is keen to sit down and talk with the UK about that," they said.

“And the PM and the president will obviously have a chance to discuss trade next week … What I can be very clear on is that it is categorically untrue to suggest that we will not be able to strike a trade deal with the US.

On the crucial issue of services the paper states that "we would strike a different arrangement for services, where it is our interests to have regulatory flexibility, recognising this will result in reduced market access".

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