- UK government ministers have warned there is no prospect of a bespoke Brexit deal with the European Union with just weeks to go in negotiations.
- Oliver Robbins, an aide to Theresa May who is leading negotiations for the UK, reportedly told Cabinet ministers they need be more realistic.
- The UK must choose between a Norway-style Brexit or a Canada-style free trade deal, Robbins told ministers.
- Prime Minister May will address the House of Commons on Brexit on Monday afternoon.
LONDON – Theresa May’s chief Brexit negotiator has reportedly warned government ministers there is no possibility of agreeing a bespoke trade deal with the European Union.
Oliver Robbins, a civil servant who leads the UK’s negotiations with the EU, told Cabinet ministers on Friday that Brussels is not going to soften its strict negotiating position between now and the end of talks, the Times reports.
One unnamed minister told the newspaper that the Cabinet had been given a stark choice between a Norway-style Brexit, in which the UK would stay in the single market but accept EU rules it has less influence in shaping, or a limited, Canada-style free trade deal, which would please staunch Brexiteers but is strongly opposed by British business.
“I came out of the meeting and thought we were even more screwed than we were before,” the minister was quoted saying. “I was surprised he admitted how bad it was. If I had to gauge where we are, I would say Downing Street is moving towards the Norwegian model.”
EU figures have warned the UK that time is running out to strike a Brexit deal. On Friday, European Council President, Donald Tusk, said it was the “last call” for the UK put forward an acceptable offer.
Prime Minister Theresa May to under pressure to deliver a Brexit which both protects frictionless trade and the open Irish border but satisfies the demands of Brexiteers in the party for independence from the EU.
Last week, a source close to the EU’s negotiating team told Business Insider that it would reject the model May has reportedly been considering, in which the UK would stay in the single market for goods alone.
“We would say no to that. The UK is not going to get that,” the source close to Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, told BI.
“We’ve always been clear that it’s about protecting the integrity of the single market. As soon as you give the UK the single market for goods, the market begins to unravel. That’s where we are.”
The prime minister will update the House of Commons on the current state of Brexit negotiations on Monday afternoon following her visit to Brussels for the European Council summit last week.
Speaking after the summit, Barnier told reporters that although some progress had been made in talks, there were still some “huge, serious divergences” between the EU and UK positions.
May is widely-expected to soften her Brexit position in the coming weeks in order to break the current impasse in negotiations and avoid a potentially disastrous no-deal scenario.
This is set to involve a watering down of her previous insistence that Brexit will mean no longer being under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. The EU has been clear that the ECJ will have to play a significant role if the UK is to have a close relationship with Brussels after it has left the bloc.
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