LONDON – British Prime Minister Theresa May faced resistance and possible rebellion by Brexit supporters in her conservative government on Friday as she gathered her unstable cabinet to draw up a plan for future trade with the European Union.
Almost 30 cabinet ministers were kidnapped in the rural retreat of Prime Minister Checkers, without their telephones, for all-day talks on a compromise plan that hopes for May will join the government, and be accepted by the Bloc.
It's a difficult task.
With only nine months left until the United Kingdom leaves the block, May said the government has "a great opportunity, and a duty" to agree on a plan. But pro-Brexit ministers, including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, have doubts about his proposal, which would consider Britain to strictly adhere to EU rules for the trading of goods.
The Brexit ministers believe that it would limit the ability of Britain, the United States and other countries around the world. A more pro-EU group that includes Treasury chief Philip Hammond believes it is essential to maintain close economic ties with the bloc and its market of 500 million people.
That vision has been shared by major manufacturers such as Airbus and Jaguar Land Rover, which warn that they could leave Britain if the EU and the United Kingdom fail to achieve a strong free trade agreement. Airbus employs only about 14,000 workers in Britain.
Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders harshly criticized the British government saying "Your Majesty's government still has no idea, or at least there is no consensus, on how to run Brexit without serious damage." 19659012] Major Brexiteers, including Johnson and Brexit, Secretary David Davis met in private on Thursday, prompting rumors that some may quit if May does not modify his 120-page proposal.
But Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, May's second-in-command, was optimistic that consensus would be reached in Friday's talks, which are expected to last 12 hours in the sixteenth-century manor, at 65 kilometers northwest of London.
"I think that at the end of the day we will reach an agreement and we will have an offer for our European colleagues," he said.
While the British government complains, EU leaders are becoming impatient, warning May that he must present concrete and "realistic" support within weeks if there is an agreement for when the UK leaves on the 29th. March 2019.
The bloc has repeatedly warned Britain that it can not "pick up" the benefits of being a member of the EU, such as access to the Union customs and single market, without accepting responsibilities, which include allow the free movement of EU citizens to the United Kingdom
It also demands certainty about the future of the border between British Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the only one of the United Kingdom land border with a member of the EU. Britain has promised to maintain an invisible border, free of customs posts and other infrastructure, but has not said how it can be achieved, given May's insistence that Britain will leave the EU customs union.
May's proposal is to present Friday – nicknamed a "facilitated customs agreement": request that the United Kingdom use the technology at its borders to determine whether the products are destined for Great Britain or the EU, and charge the appropriate rates . It would also commit Britain to keep its regulations closely aligned with those of the EU for trade in agricultural goods and productions, but not in services, which account for the bulk of Britain's economy.
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