Brexit war Cabinet meets as Brussels document reveals plan to restrict Single Market access, block trade talks during transition

Catherine Neilan
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Remainers such as Hammond will be matched by Brexiters including Davis and Johnson (Source: Getty)

Theresa May's Brexit war Cabinet meets today, as a EU document reveals Brussels is looking at ways to restrict access to the Single Market during a transition period if it feels it would take too long to launch legal action to settle a dispute.

The five-page document is a draft treaty, which is expected to be put to the remaining 27 member states by EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

Although it was leaked last night, the EU has since published it in full.

"The Governance and Dispute Settlement Part of the Withdrawal Agreement should provide for a mechanism allowing the Union to suspend certain benefits deriving for the UK from participation in the internal market where it considers that referring the matter to Court of Justice of the EU would not bring in appropriate time the necessary remedies," a footnote within the document says.

It also reiterates that from March 30, 2019 to Dec 31, 2020, Britain would be fully bound by all EU laws but will no longer be part of the decision-making process of the Union, a position that Brussels has already committed to.

And it rules out any option of the UK being able to strike trade deals during transition - something which Brexit secretary David Davis explicitly called for a fortnight ago.

The draft legal text, which has yet to be approved by EU governments, will be part of the withdrawal treaty that will regulate the terms of divorce between Britain and the EU and the rules for the transition period after Brexit.

The document has emerged as May and 10 ministers prepare to meet today to thrash out the UK's position on transition and trade after Brexit.

The Prime Minister will be joined by Cabinet Office minister David Lidington, chancellor Philip Hammond, Brexit secretary David Davis, home secretary Amber Rudd, foreign secretary Boris Johnson, international trade secretary Liam Fox, business secretary Greg Clark, environment secretary Michael Gove, defence secretary Gavin Williamson, and Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley. That gives a pretty even split between the Remainers and Leavers in May's top team.

Senior civil servants including Olly Robbins and Jeremy Heywood are also expected to be present for the meeting.

But while the entire country is waiting for clarity from the government over the direction of travel, it is still not clear whether that will be delivered this week.

Clark refused to give a deadline for a decision during an interview with BBC Radio 4 this morning, instead saying: "This is a negotiation which is about to happen. We can’t guarantee an end-state until it has been agreed by both sides."

Today’s two-hour Downing Street meeting is schedule to take place after PMQs. Ministers will reconvene at 11am tomorrow.

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