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British PM plans Brexit speech next week

Thursday, February 22, 2018

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LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — Prime Minister Theresa May will make a speech next week on Britain's partnership with the EU after Brexit, her office said Thursday, after she chaired an eight-hour cabinet meeting to thrash out a plan.

May took senior ministers to the premier's country retreat of Chequers for the afternoon and dinner to discuss what economic ties they want Britain to have with the European Union after leaving the bloc in March 2019.

"The way forward will be set out by the prime minister in a speech next week following discussions at full cabinet," a meeting that usually takes place on a Tuesday, a Downing Street spokesman said.

Thursday's meeting involved members of a Brexit cabinet sub-committee including Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who has called for a clean break with Brussels, and Finance Minister Philip Hammond, who favours closer ties.

There was discussion on the automotive sector, agri-foods and digital trade, while May led talks on the overall future economic partnership, the spokesman said.

Britain is under pressure to set out more details on what it wants, with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte warning in London this week that the "clock is ticking".

EU President Donald Tusk is due to issue guidelines for talks on future ties at a summit on March 22-23, with the negotiations expected to begin in April.

Britain says it will be leaving the EU's single market and customs union, as it seeks to end free movement of migrants and the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

May wants a new deal that would reduce as much as possible any tariffs or red tape on trade, but EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier has warned that some barriers are unavoidable if she pursues her current path.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the main opposition Labour party, is due to give a speech on Monday with further detail on his party's position on Brexit.

Any deal agreed with Brussels would have to be passed by the House of Commons, where May's Conservatives have only a slender majority.




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