Ministers 'hope' to set out what they want from Brexit 'in the next few weeks'

Home secretary Amber Rudd

The home secretary has said she "hopes" the Government will set out what it wants from Brexit "within the next few weeks".

Amber Rudd also insisted the government had always held the position that the UK should not be part of a customs union with the European Union after leaving.

But she did little to quell concerns that proposals for immigration post-Brexit had been delayed, saying only that it was "likely" the plans would be set out before exit day in March 2019.

Ms Rudd also sought to calm rising tensions in the Conservative Party after pro-EU MP Anna Soubry told Theresa May to "sling out" arch Brexiteers and threatened to quit the party.

Ms Soubry's intervention ratcheted up pressure ahead of tomorrow and Thursday's meetings of the prime minister's "war cabinet" to discuss what "end state" relationship the UK will seek with its former EU partners.

Ahead of the talks, Ms Rudd told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I hope that within the next few weeks we'll be able to give some clarity to people."

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But she indicated that voters may have to wait for longer to see the government's immigration plans.

Ms Rudd said she planned to publish an immigration white paper by the end of the year, but stressed a post-Brexit implementation period of around two years during which EU citizens would be free to live and work in the UK reduced the urgency.

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Asked if voters would know how immigration will work after Brexit before exit day in March 2019, Ms Rudd said: "That is likely."

She went on: "I completely understand businesses want to know, of course people want to know what is taking place post-'21 but if I put that in terms of the timeline, that does reduce the urgency."

Responding to Ms Soubry's comments, Ms Rudd told BBC Breakfast: "This is the sort of debate you expect when tempers run high, when people have very strong views on either side.

So, Anna's putting her views out in a characteristically robust way and we'll see what the prime minister's response is.

"But it's no surprise to me that there are very strong views on what is such an important part of this country's future - working out how we leave the European Union - and people have very, very strongly held views."

Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon said it was "unacceptable" that the Cabinet was deciding on what "end state" relationship the UK would seek with the EU without consulting devolved administrations.

She told Today: "We're seeing the government yet again put the interests of the Conservative Party ahead of the interests of the country.

"It is overwhelmingly in my view in the interests of the country, our economy, to remain within the customs union and the single market."

Amid Tory strife over membership of the customs union, which allows tariff-free trade but inhibits the UK's ability to strike new deals with countries outside the union, New Zealand's prime minister said an agreement with the UK was a "priority".

Jacinda Ardern told Today: "We are here, ready and willing, and really willing to model what those future free trade agreements from a UK perspective could look like, so ready we are."

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