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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 25 June 2018

Divided UK leadership ‘agree Brexit strategy’

Agreement follows eight-hour meeting between the ruling party’s senior leadership amid long-standing differences over policy

Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May with her Brexit cabinet during the eight-hour meeting. Jay Allen/MoD/Handout via REUTERS
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May with her Brexit cabinet during the eight-hour meeting. Jay Allen/MoD/Handout via REUTERS

The UK has agreed its negotiating position for Brexit after an eight-hour meeting between the senior political leaders to thrash out their differences, ministers said.

Prime Minister Theresa May and 11 colleagues met on Thursday to discuss their strategy for negotiations with the European Union.

Ministers were divided on the future planned relationship with the European Union. Some believe the UK should make a clean break after March 29, 2019, while others wanted to keep links with the world’s largest trading bloc even if it meant following some of its rules.

Full details of the negotiating position have not been revealed but comments by one minister suggested a compromise had been reached between the two factions.

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The UK would continue to align its regulations with the EU in some sectors – such as the car industry – while retaining the right to choose for others, according to Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary.

“We will as a sovereign power have the right to choose to diverge and what we won't be doing is accepting changes in rules because the EU unilaterally chooses to make those changes,” Mr Hunt told the BBC.

It is not yet clear if that approach will be acceptable to EU negotiators who have repeatedly expressed their frustration with the UK over its lack of clarity about what it wants from a post-Brexit deal. Mrs May has just eight months to strike a withdrawal deal after 45 years as a member of European institutions.

“There was a very, very good atmosphere and we agreed on the way forward,” said Michael Gove, the environment minister and a leading Brexiteer.