Theresa May has faced down a potential Cabinet rebellion over Brexit after her ministers agreed plans for a new UK-EU free trade deal.
Following a marathon meeting at her Chequers country home, the Prime Minister hailed the new plan for a “common rule book” with Brussels to protect jobs and avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.
In a bid to reassure worried Brexiteers, the compromise proposal for EU customs arrangements gives the British Parliament the final say over any future changes.
Seven Cabinet ministers led by Boris Johnson had met on Thursday to discuss their worries about the proposals, but May appeared to have won them round with an insistence that the UK would still “take back control” of its “money, laws and borders”.
She said that she now wanted “to move at pace” to discuss the plans with the EU, ahead of a crucial summit in October.
A new ‘White Paper’ setting out the detail of the plans will be published next week.
But within minutes of the outlines of the plans being published, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage claimed the Cabinet Brexiteers were “career politicians all”. One group said the agreement represented ‘fake Brexit’.
The UK is due to leave the EU next March but it has taken more than two years since the EU referendum for the Government to finally agree among itself the kind of Brexit it wants.
“Our proposal will create a U.K. – EU free trade area which establishes a common rule book for industrial goods and agricultural products,” May said.
“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.”
The deal was hammered out over a lunch of BBQ chicken and a dinner of Oxfordshire beef fillet, No.10 revealed. Break-out groups also met outdoors during the long, hot day.
Davis is understood to have raised his worries that one compromise – dubbed a ‘facilitated customs arrangement’ – could prove unacceptable to the EU.
But May’s allies insist the plans are the most likely to win both Parliamentary backing and allow talks with Brussels to move on to the next stage.
In an apparent bid to reassure International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, the agreement states the UK could potentially apply to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership which boosts free trade between countries like Australia, Canada, Mexico, Chile and Singapore.
The PM is due to meet her backbench MPs on Monday to sell the package to sceptics.