Business secretary Greg Clark dampens hopes of government setting out Brexit aims

 
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The government will not be able to give a clear indication of its desired future relationship with the EU even after a crunch meeting of its Cabinet Brexit committee today and tomorrow, according to business secretary Greg Clark.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) today wrote to the Prime Minister urging her to give a "clear, unequivocal statement of intent" on what the government's aims are so that firms can start to plan for life after the so-called implementation period, with patience "wearing thin".

However, speaking to the BBC this morning, Clark declined to give any indication that the government will reveal its plans. He said: "This is a negotiation that is about to happen. We can't guarantee an end state until that has been agreed by both sides", referring to the UK and the EU.

Read more: Brexit war committee meets as key Brussels document leaks

The Brexit committee meeting will allow the government to "make sure that the end state that we want to negotiate for... meets our objectives", Clark said.

However, it remains unclear what those objectives are, with intensive briefing over the past fortnight over whether the UK will aim to secure a new customs union with the EU, or even seek to remain within the existing customs union.

Many pro-Brexit Conservative MPs are in favour of leaving the customs union, in the belief that free-trade agreements with non-EU countries will make up for increased frictions between the UK and the EU. Opponents of the plans point to the fact that the EU remains the UK's largest trading partner, while the government's own leaked analysis predicts that leaving the customs union would be a more damaging route.

Clark said the government will aim for an end state "without tariffs and with a minimum of frictions".

"There is no room for continued ambiguity," the BCC letter said.

Read more: BCC: May must unite party and deliver Brexit clarity

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