UK: David Davis resigns as Brexit Secretary

Donald Trump meets with Theresa May in New York

Upon arriving in Brussels for the EU summit focused on the bloc's partnership with eastern European countries, the Prime Minister offered a stark assessment of Russian President Vladimir Putin's actions.

"Our proposal will create a UK-EU free trade area which establishes a common rule book for industrial goods and agricultural products".

The Prime Minister secured Cabinet backing for the strategy in a marathon meeting at Chequers last week, but has since faced a backlash from hardline Brexiteers - with some questioning her leadership.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove, a leading Brexit supporter, admitted the proposal thrashed out by cabinet ministers during a day-long meeting on Friday was not ideal.

But as details of the agreement emerged, Tory hardliners warned Mrs May they might not accept a plan which they claim saw her "red lines" turn pink.

Ahead of the meeting, she said the Cabinet had "a great opportunity - and a duty to set an ambitious course to enhance our prosperity and security outside the European Union - and to build a country that genuinely works for everyone".

Boris Johnson has decided not to quit as foreign secretary over UK Prime Minister Theresa May's soft Brexit plan because he wants to remain in Cabinet and fight for the divorce he wants, according to a person familiar with his thinking.

James Cleverly, a deputy chairman of the party who attended the Saturday morning briefing, said: "I went in there with some concerns as a Brexiteer and I come out with those concerns addressed".

However, Britain would be outside the Single Market for services, such as it is - a somewhat counterintuitive proposal, considering the country runs a substantial trade surplus with the rest of the European Union for services, but a large deficit for goods.

The government intends publishing a White Paper next week setting out the proposals in detail.

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Meanwhile, a briefing from the European Research Group, a powerful group of backbench Conservative Brexit backers, said the position would lead to a "worst of all worlds black hole Brexit" and leave the United Kingdom stuck in a "regulatory tar pit", with the European Court of Justice (ECJ) still involved in trade disputes.

"This is a genuine confidence boost and the prime minister deserves credit for delivering a unified approach" said Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director general, in a statement.

"I'm a realist", Mr Gove told the BBC, admitting that he didn't like everything about Mrs May's plan.

Labour MPs were sceptical, with shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer calling it a "sticking plaster" rather than "a final position".

By also committing to ending free movement of people, the supremacy of the European court and "vast" payments to the bloc, May could be accused of "cherry-picking" the best bits of the EU by Brussels officials, who are determined to send a strong signal to other countries not to follow Britain out of the door.

Still, the plan could help move negotiations forward.

Commentators said alignment on goods could reduce the UK's flexibility to strike trade deals with other countries, particularly the USA which would want an agreement allowing its farm products, produced to different standards, into the British market.

"We achieve all of the things that we campaigned for in order to ensure that we could leave the European Union, but we also do so in a way which respects some of the wishes and some of the concerns of those of my colleagues who voted Remain".

Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns said the danger was that British business would "continue to be a rule-taker from the EU".

A concerted effort to win over would-be rebels has been mounted by Downing Street, but Mrs May faces a potentially stormy private meeting with Tory MPs and peers in Parliament on Monday night.

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