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Pro-Brussels Ministers Collude with Big Business to Scare Cabinet Off Backing Clean Brexit

Theresa May Philip Hammond
OWEN HUMPHREYS/AFP/Getty
LIAM DEACON

Theresa May is plotting to deploy the anti-Brexit chancellor and business secretary to talk colleagues out of backing a clean Brexit at this week’s crunch cabinet meeting, according to reports.

Greg Clark, the business secretary, will reportedly claim to speak for big business after European firms such as BMW were allegedly pushed to make statements in support of remaining in a customs union with the bloc, with several having meetings in government, The Times reports.

The Prime Minister and her top team are set to meet in Chequers on Friday to decide if the UK breaks free of a customs union and common market with the European Union (EU), and takes back control of trade and immigration policy.

Mrs May is reported to be leaning towards staying tied to these structures, with minimal immigration controls after Brexit, and Chancellor Philip Hammond and Mr Clark will talk up fears about tax revenues and business confidence to tip the cabinet decision in her preferred direction, The Times claims.

Pro-Brussels advisers including Olly Robbins will join the Cabinet ministers at the Prime Minister’s Buckinghamshire retreat, the paper adds.

A source said the discussions are set to cover four options – including membership of the EEA, a Canadian-style trade agreement, and no deal.

“The idea of this is to have a ‘Let’s remind ourselves why Ceta, EEA, and no deal don’t work’,” one source said. Mrs May’s preferred choice looks a “lot like Switzerland” and could face outright rejection by Brussels, they added.

Migration is reportedly not on the agenda for the meeting and ministers have not yet decided if they will allow it to be part of negotiations with the EU, although many expect this to be the case.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Mrs May was planning to offer the EU more concessions on financial services in exchange for remaining in a single market with the bloc – something Brussels sources rejected immediately.

Whitehall sources last month described Mrs May’s new single market plan as “freedom of movement by another name”, implying immigration restrictions will be minimal.

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