London : British Prime Minister Theresa May on Saturday hailed a “breakthrough” after hours of being locked in with Cabinet ministers at her official country retreat of Chequers to chair what was dubbed as a “make-or-break” Brexit meeting.
In a statement at the end of the 12-hour marathon summit, she said the Cabinet has agreed to “our collective position” for Britain’s future negotiations with the European Union (EU).
“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,” May said, reports PTI.
She claimed that the new plan would avoid “friction” in terms of trade, protect jobs and livelihoods, as well as meet the open border commitments in Northern Ireland. “We have also agreed a new business-friendly customs model with freedom to strike new trade deals around the world,” the British prime minister said, adding that her government would publish a white paper next week to set out more details. She was expected to push her top team, divided sharply in favour of or against a hard exit from the EU, to agree plans that would see Britain remaining in full regulatory alignment with the EU on goods, but not services.
May, who faced one of her biggest challenges yet over the issue of Britain’s exit from the 27-member economic bloc following a referendum in favour of Brexit two years ago, had warned her ministers that they have “a duty” to reach an agreement on Friday.
Ahead of the meeting, she said the Cabinet had “a great opportunity – and a duty to set an ambitious course to enhance our prosperity and security outside the European Union – and to build a country that genuinely works for everyone”.
However, the divide between Eurosceptic and more pro-EU ministers over the terms of how closely the UK should stick to EU rules after Brexit posed a big challenge.
“I’m pretty confident we will end up with a concrete position which everybody is able to sign up to,” said Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, hours before the meeting.
Under details of the meeting at Chequers, a 16th century home in Buckinghamshire used as the British PM’s official country retreat, the ministers were expected to hand over all their smartphones and devices to ensure complete focus on thrashing out an agreement and also to prevent any leaks from the crucial meeting.