The Brexit ‘war cabinet’ has concluded without senior ministers agreeing a position on what trade relationship Britain should pursue with the EU.
The ministers most closely involved with Brexit talks began discussing options for the future UK-EU relationship in a Downing Street meeting which lasted about 90 minutes.
Brexiteers Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Liam Fox, alongside Gavin Williamson, who backed Remain in the referendum, were understood to be vocal on the need to ‘diverge’ from EU regulations.
It is believed soft Brexit backers such as Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd leaned further towards ‘alignment’ with Brussels rules to maintain close ties with the EU in the future.
Ministers did not agree a position but there was discussion of the potential for ‘gradual divergence’ – a step-by-step move away from EU laws after Brexit and the conclusion of a subsequent implementation period in 2021.
The meeting came as a senior adviser to EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier warned that Britain could not pursue ‘sector-by-sector’ participation in the European single market.
Stefaan De Rynck also rejected a ‘buffet-style’ transition away from EU membership ‘where one picks and chooses the bits one likes’, in an event at Chatham House in central London.
Mr Barnier has also made clear Britain will not be able to ‘cherry-pick’ advantages of different trading models with the EU.