Barnier warns Britain over post-Brexit trade

Theresa May

REUTERS Benoit Tessier

European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier will meet his opposite number, Brexit Secretary David Davis, in London on Monday for the first time since European Union leaders told Barnier to negotiate a post-Brexit transition period to ease Britain's departure.

Pro-Brexit lawmakers are plotting to topple Prime Minister if she tries to keep in the 's tariff-free customs union, media reports said on Sunday, ahead of crucial Cabinet meetings over Britain's future relationship with the later this week.

The news comes as European Union chief negotiator Michel Barnier is due to meet prime minister Theresa May in London today.

Britain will remain in the customs union and the single market during the transition period that will follow its withdrawal from the EU in March 2019.

Downing Street has insisted the United Kingdom will not be in a customs union after Brexit as Tory tensions over the Government's plans continued to simmer.

Any customs arrangement limits the UK's ability to strike trade deals and that means it is potentially a no-goer with the Brexiteers who value free trade.

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A senior Brussels sources has said: "Above all else we need clarity from Mrs May about what Britain wants".

British officials may, on a case-by-base basis, be invited to attend meetings in the European Parliament, Commission or the Council of EU ministers when British presence is necessary and in the interest of the EU, such as in the case of agreeing fishing quotas.

The debate around staying within or leaving the customs unions has grown a fearsome and contentious issue within Mrs May's troubled government and her wider Conservative Party.

It was a "profound mistake" to leave a customs union, he said, and it would create the need for checks at the Northern Irish border.

He met May at Downing Street before his official talks with Davis, following which he told reporters that the two sides had agreed to move on to the next phase of Brexit negotiations.

"My feeling is that we have not a minute to lose because we want to achieve a deal", Barnier told the BBC and Sky News television as he left for London. The other is a custom partnership.

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Today, negotiators will press for a transition agreement to be confirmed by the EU Council summit in March in a bid to provide certainty to businesses and investors.

"So, when I hear that there is not a single trade agreement open to financial services [post-Brexit], I think, 'really?'" Bailey said.

Such is the strength of feeling over a customs union, that MPs approached Johnson on Friday urging him to plot a coup in which he will become prime minister, and Gove and Rees-Mogg will be installed as deputy PM and chancellor respectively. "As with all these matters, it's the beginning of a negotiation". People will be free to live and work here.

The subject is so sensitive that the Prime Minister has previously declined to authorise any formal discussion in the group.

The chairman of the Commons Exiting the EU Committee, Hilary Benn, said further detail was still needed from ministers if the terms of a future deal with Brussels are to be agreed by October as hoped.

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