Theresa May Secures Approval from Cabinet to Negotiate Soft Brexit
Albanian Daily News
Published July 7, 2018
Theresa May has secured approval to negotiate a soft Brexit deal with the European Union, signing up her fractious cabinet at a Chequers awayday to a controversial plan to match EU standards on food and goods.
The prime minister released a statement following the critical afternoon session of the long-awaited summit that alarmed Tory hard Brexiters, in which she confirmed she had won over the cabinet to new customs arrangements ending political deadlock on the issue.
May said the cabinet had "agreed our collective position for the future of our negotiations with the EU". That included a proposal to "create a UK-EU free trade area which establishes a common rule book for industrial goods and agricultural products" after Brexit.
Tory Brexiters voiced concern at the agreement, while soft Brexiters expressed relief. Andrea Jenkyns, a hardline MP, complained that "British businesses will continue to be a rule taker from the EU" and said she would "pray" that the detail was not as bad as she feared. Heidi Allen, a moderate, said she was "pleased to report Theresa May has secured cabinet agreement for a sensible, soft Brexit".
On Thursday, when the common rule book proposal was first leaked, hardline Brexiter cabinet ministers and Conservative MPs voiced alarm that it could prevent the UK striking a trade deal with the US, which has different standards in goods and foods, such as allowing chickens to be washed in chlorine.
But May was able to release the text of a three-page agreed statement before cabinet, following a relatively undramatic day of discussions, sat down for dinner to listen to No 10 communications chiefs make a presentation on how to sell the new proposals.
Michel Barnier, the EU's chief Brexit negotiator, appeared to react warmly to the proposals, noting in a tweet that the "Chequers discussion on future to be welcomed. I look forward to white paper. We will assess proposals to see if they are workable and realistic". The CBI and the Institute of Directors (IoD) business groups also voiced relief.
The prime minister made clear that she expected ministers would be sacked if they did not remain in line with her soft Brexit blueprint. She wrote to Tory MPs to explain her plans and included a clear warning about discipline: "As we developed our policy on Brexit, I have allowed cabinet colleagues to express their individual views. Agreement on this proposal marks the point where that is no longer the case and collective responsibility is now fully restored."
Ministers had been told to surrender their phones in line with what was described as "standard practice for cabinet meetings" when they arrived at Chequers at around 10am with none of their advisers present, meaning that they were not able to immediately present their version of events.
May had asked everybody with the right to attend cabinet to be present, a total of 29 people, meaning that a greater proportion of those present were expected to be loyal to her. Despite speculation that some ministers could stage a walkout through the Buckinghamshire countryside to the nearest train station, there was no sign of Boris Johnson or any other hard Brexiter leaving before dinner. One minister said that Johnson "was actually very big about it and by dinner spoke passionately in favour of making it work".
(Source: The Guardian)