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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Brexit: Theresa May set to strengthen Britain’s negotiating position

The British prime minister has sent a number of Brexit position papers to Cabinet ministers to sign off

Britain's prime minister Theresa May has sent out a number of position papers to Cabinet ministers to be signed off. Neil Hall / Reuters
Britain's prime minister Theresa May has sent out a number of position papers to Cabinet ministers to be signed off. Neil Hall / Reuters

British prime minister Theresa May is preparing to strengthen her negotiating position in talks to leave the European Union, as a number of position papers have been sent to Cabinet ministers to sign off.

The British government is preparing to outline its stance on some of the most important Brexit issues such as the border with Ireland and the customs union, which will be revealed in documents expected to be published in the next two weeks.

On Tuesday, senior sources in the government said that top ministers had received position papers to agree on, ahead of Mrs May’s return to Number 10, Downing Street next week.

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A senior source told Sky News: "These papers are meant to facilitate collective decision making based on facts and evidence. "

The news comes as the British government was accused of being under prepared when it comes to the Brexit discussions.

On Monday, a former head of the diplomatic service said Britain had been “a bit absent” from the negotiating table in Brussels.

Britain's border with Ireland is one of the main issues in the current negotiations. Clodagh Kilcoyne/ Reuters
Britain's border with Ireland is one of the main issues in the current negotiations. Clodagh Kilcoyne/ Reuters

"The negotiations have only just begun, I don't think they have begun particularly promisingly, frankly, on the British side," Sir Simon Fraser told the BBC.

"We haven't put forward a lot because, as we know, there are differences within the cabinet about the sort of Brexit that we are heading for and until those differences are further resolved I think it's very difficult for us to have a clear position."

He added: "I think so far we haven't put much on the table apart from something on the status of nationals, so we are a bit absent from the formal negotiation."

However, despite the summer recess, a government source said that ministers and officials were working around the clock to reach an agreement on the first stage of negotiations.

"Position papers may determine whether or not we can move to the second stage of negotiations, work in recess is vital," the source told Sky News. "We never sleep."

The second stage, which will see talks about Britain’s future relationship with the EU, cannot commence unless the European Commission is happy that “sufficient progress” has been made on three main issues, namely Britain’s Brexit bill, EU citizens’ rights and the border with Ireland.