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British PM "plays a blinder" at crucial Brexit meeting, say British media

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-02-23 22:16

LONDON - Details emerged Friday of a crucial meeting of British Prime Minister (PM) Theresa May's most senior front-bench ministers to discuss the government's "final" Brexit strategy, in which May reportedly managed to unite both sides with a consensus.

May and 11 of her cabinet members spent eight hours in a marathon meeting at Chequers, the official country house of the British prime ministers.

Away from the limelight of Westminster and Whitehall, the meeting was tasked with seeking a unified approach among the often squabbling cabinet to Brexit ahead of the next round of negotiations with Brussels.

Although there was no official communique after the meeting, details of the discussion was credited to government sources who attended the meeting.

The Daily Telegraph, a British newspaper, quoted Whitehall sources, saying May had "played a blinder" and managed to keep both warring sides together with a consensus that she will deliver in a keynote speech next week.

The Telegraph, another British print media, said that the agreement among the 11-strong Cabinet Brexit sub-committee will mean that Britain would be free to navigate its own way after its departure from the European Union (EU) but stick closely to EU standards and rules, and for trade between both sides to be as frictionless as possible.

The conclusion of the talks at the 16th century manor house in Buckinghamshire will be re-opened for discussion on Tuesday at a meeting of May's full cabinet at 10 Downing Street. Once agreed, it will form May's major speech on Thursday, a major step in outlining the government's final Brexit strategy.

Meanwhile, the rival Guardian newspaper reported Friday that with May planning to unveil her vision for departure from the EU next Thursday, following the Chequers talks, the PM is facing the prospect of the main opposition posed by the center-left Labour Party, which may sabotage her carefully choreographed process.

Leader of the Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn is scheduled to make a keynote speech on Monday, and he may promise to keep Britain inside a version of the customs union, which political commentators considered a major shift in Corbyn's approach to Brexit.

Two prominent pro-EU Conservative Members of Parliament, Anna Soubry and Ken Clarke, are leading a move to keep Britain in the customs union in the EU in the same terms as existed before exit day.

The Guardian reported Corbyn's speech could pave the way for the Labour to inflict a House-of-Commons defeat on the government, by backing the rebel move by Soubry and Clarke, to keep Britain in a customs union.

May has insisted that Britain leave the European single market and the customs union, but accepted that she must abide by their rules in a post-Brexit transition period of around two years.

However, EU rules insist that access to the single market and customs union means following key principles of membership of the bloc, including free movement of all EU citizens.

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