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Theresa May tells Cabinet ‘now its time to hold our nerve’ over Brexit

Theresa May has told her Cabinet ‘now is the time to hold our nerve’ as Brexit negotiations have reached a ‘critical’ stage.

The Prime Minister gathered her ministers at 10 Downing Street where she told them she remained confident of securing an agreement on Brexit despite a disastrous meeting with EU leaders in Salzburg last week.

The head of the European Council, Donald Tusk, rejected May’s Chequers plan for Brexit telling her it ‘will not work’ after which she confirmed the Government would continue to plan for the possibility of no deal.

Theresa May making a statement on the Brexit negotiations following a disastrous meeting in Salzburg (Picture: AFP/Getty)

Her Cabinet meeting came as the Department for Exiting the EU (Dexeu) released its guidance for the UK under no deal, including the warning of possible disruption to flights and coach services in and out of Europe.

At the same time, hardline Brexiteers and Tory rebels met to discuss an alternative plan for leaving the EU.

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Senior Tory Leavers including David Davis and Jacob Rees-Mogg attended the launch of a report by the Institute of Economic Affairs think tank calling on the Government to seek a ‘basic’ free trade agreement for goods of the kind struck between the EU and Canada, while pursuing ‘regulatory freedom and trade independence’.

Mr Rees-Mogg, who leads the Tory backbench European Research Group (ERG), said the Plan A-plus report offered a ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Canada’ deal which the UK should seize.

‘This is about how you can have a fantastic Brexit that sets us up for the next generation and ensures our prosperity,’ he said.

‘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.’

Exiting the European Union Secretary (Brexit) Dominic Raab in Downing Street ahead of the meeting between Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s representative in the Brexit negotiations, and Prime Minister Theresa May (Picture: PA)

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson – who did not attend the launch – also earlier endorsed the report as ‘a very good piece of work’.

While ex-Brexit Secretary Mr Davis, who quit in protest at the plan agreed by Cabinet at the PM’s country retreat in July, said it was time to ‘reset’ negotiations with Brussels.

‘We’re currently, bluntly, in a cul-de-sac, I’m afraid Salzburg was all too predictable,’ he said.

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A spokesman for Mrs May ruled out moving towards a Canada-style deal, warning it would not prevent a hard border with the Republic of Ireland.

‘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,’ he said.

‘The PM has repeatedly set out that we must protect the economic and constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom as a whole.’

The Prime Minister has re-iterated her Chequers White Paper remains the only plan on the table which achieves the goals of frictionless trade and an open border in Ireland.

She also said she remained confident of securing a deal with the EU, but added that the Government would continue to ‘sensibly’ plan for no deal.

David Davis MP, Jacob Rees-Mogg MP and Theresa Villiers MP continue to call for May to ditch the Chequers plan (Picture: PA)

What are the Dexeu warnings for a no deal Brexit?

Among guidance for no-deal planning included in the latest slew of Dexeu documents were warnings that:

– Passengers could face flight disruption if new permissions are not granted

– Bus and coach services to European Union countries could be suspended

– Chemical firms would need new registrations to continue exporting to EEA nations

– Pet owners could have to make preparations with their vets four months in advance of a trip to Europe

– Dozens of British traditional foods from Stilton cheese to Cornish clotted cream may be forced to apply for new protected status from the EU

After talking with her cabinet, the PM then 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.

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