Theresa May has told cabinet ministers to hold their nerve after her Chequers plan was rejected by EU leaders – as top Brexiteers backed an alternative to the proposal.
Senior Conservative Leave supporters have continued to pile pressure on her to ditch the plan in favour of a recommendation from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA).
David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg attended the launch of the IEA’s report, which calls on the government to seek a “basic” free trade agreement for goods of the kind struck between the EU and Canada.
This would be while pursuing “regulatory freedom and trade independence”.
It came as a list of 24 technical notices published by the government on Monday showed how everyday life could be disrupted in the event of a “no-deal” Brexit.
As ministers gathered at 10 Downing Street the prime minister said she remained confident of securing a withdrawal agreement with the EU.
She added that the government would still continue to prepare for the possibility of no deal.
Mrs May’s spokesman ruled out moving towards a Canada-style deal, warning it would not prevent a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.
He said: “The FTA would only apply to the Great Britain-EU relationship, with Northern Ireland effectively remaining in parts of the single market and customs union.
“The PM has repeatedly set out that we must protect the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom as a whole.”
At the cabinet meeting in 10 Downing Street, Mrs May said it had always been clear that negotiations would at some point come to a critical stage.
And she told ministers: “Now is the time to hold our nerve.”
The Department for Exiting the EU’s technical notes warned of a disruption to food supplies and coach firms being unable to operate in the bloc if a deal is not reached.
They also provided guidance on areas such as taking pets abroad, veterinary medicines, regulating energy and labelling products.
Vehicle insurance, EU-funded programmes, business regulations and importing and exporting also featured in the papers.
Dozens of British traditional foods from Stilton cheese to Cornish clotted cream may be forced to apply for new protected status from the EU
When asked if the prime minister’s Chequers plan was still alive on his way into 10 Downing Street today, the Chancellor Philip Hammond replied: “Very much so.”
Mr Rees-Mogg, who leads the influential Tory backbench European Research Group (ERG), said the IEA report offered a “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Canada” deal which the UK should seize.
He said: “This is about how you can have a fantastic Brexit that sets us up for the next generation and ensures our prosperity.
“This has been offered to us by the (European) Commission, they have offered us the best trade deal they have ever done with any country ever in the world, so if you want to call it Canada plus, or super Canada or supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Canada, that is what is being aimed and its being offered.”
Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson – who did not attend the launch – also endorsed the report as “a very good piece of work”.
Mr Davis, who quit as Brexit secretary in protest at the plan agreed by cabinet at Mrs May’s country retreat in July, said it was time to “reset” negotiations with Brussels.
He added: “We’re currently, bluntly, in a cul-de-sac, I’m afraid Salzburg was all too predictable.
“Now what we need to do is to use the original commitments made back on 7 March by both (European Council president Donald) Tusk and (EU chief negotiator Michel) Barnier to go for an advanced free trade agreement.”
Mrs May has said the government’s White Paper remained the only plan on the table which achieves the goals of frictionless trade and an open border in Ireland.
She said she remained confident of securing a deal with the EU, but added that the government would continue to “sensibly” plan for no deal.
After talking with ministerial colleagues, she met with European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt for what the Belgian politician described as an “open and honest exchange” on the progress of negotiations.
Downing Street said the pair discussed the future economic partnership and the Northern Ireland backstop, with Mrs May stressing the need to ensure frictionless trade between the EU and the UK and maintain the constitutional integrity of the UK.
Both agreed that the best solution to the Northern Ireland border would be found through an agreement on the future relationship, said Number 10.