British Prime Minister hosting Brexit showdown at her country retreat

Theresa May is attempting to unite her splintered Cabinet behind new proposals

British Prime Minister hosting Brexit showdown at her country retreat

The front entrance to Chequers, the Prime Minister's official country residence in Buckinghamshire, 07-07-2018. Image: Suzanne Plunkett/PA Wire/PA Images

Former British Prime Minister David Cameron held talks with the country’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on the eve of the British Cabinet’s crunch showdown on Brexit.

Mr Cameron’s successor as Prime Minister, Theresa May, is hosting the talks at her Chequers country retreat.

She is attempting to unite her splintered Cabinet behind a new 100-page White Paper that outlines the UK view on the future relationship between the UK and the EU.

The meeting has been billed as the most important of Mrs May’s career – with ministers still bitterly divided over how to move the process forward.  

Last week, EU leaders took less than a minute to agree that “no substantial progress” had been made on a backstop solution for the Irish border.

Both the EU and the UK have already agreed that there can be return to a hard border on the island of Ireland – however Britain has so far failed to come up with a workable proposal for how this can be achieved after Brexit.

In their meeting last night, Mr Cameron and Mr Johnson both reportedly agreed that the new plan represents the “worst of both worlds” for the UK.

The two men were on opposite sides in the Brexit Referendum campaign – with Mr Cameron resigning his position after when the ‘Remain’ side lost.

David Cameron announces his resignation as UK Prime Minister after Britain voted to leave the European Union, 24-06-2016. Image:  Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Archive/PA Images

"Facilitated customs arrangement"

It is believed the new UK plan would see the UK remaining closely aligned to EU regulation on agriculture and food.

Papers circulated to ministers ahead of the crunch meeting are reported to recommend that the UK should maintain a "common rulebook" with the EU.

The document also reportedly says the UK would “strike a different arrangement for services, where it is in our interests to have regulatory flexibility.”

It recognises that this would “result in reduced market access."

Theresa May hosts a Cabinet meeting at Chequers, 31-08-2016. Image:  Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

Global trade

Brexiteer Cabinet members are reportedly concerned the plan would make it much harder to strike a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.

The Spectator magazine quotes the White Paper as saying that the arrangements "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 United States' "array of standards."

However Downing Street has insisted it is "categorically untrue" that the plans would make a trade deal with the US impossible.

Showdown

The British Ministers will have their phones removed on arrival at Chequers in Buckinghamshire and talks will continue into the night.

Mrs May has warned her colleagues they have "a duty" to "agree the shape of our future relationship with the European Union."

Speaking ahead of the crunch meeting, the prime minister said: "The cabinet meets at Chequers to agree the shape of our future relationship with the European Union.

"In doing so, we have 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."

Brexiteers

File photo of leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg, 27-03-2018. Image:  Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

Last night, leading Brexiteers held their own private meeting to mull over the proposals.

The British Brexit Secretary David Davis has reportedly written to Mrs May setting out his opposition to her so-called "third way" on customs.

It is believed he told the Prime Minister the plan was “unworkable.”

Mrs May said: "We want a deal that allows us to deliver the benefits of Brexit - taking control of our borders, laws and money and by signing ambitious new trade deals with countries like the US, Australia and New Zealand.”

"This is about agreeing an approach that delivers decisively on the verdict of the British people - an approach that is in the best interests of the UK and the EU, and crucially, one that commands the support of the public and parliament."

In response to media reports of the proposed "facilitated customs arrangement," Tory MP Owen Paterson - who is a board member of Leave Means Leave - said it would be "a complete breach of Theresa May's manifesto commitment."

One person remains optimistic - Chief Whip Julian Smith told reporters in Downing Street that "the prime minister will have a great day."

With reporting from IRN ...