LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May was meeting Monday with senior ministers to begin thrashing out Britain’s plans for its long-term relationship with the European Union after Brexit.
May was meeting with her Brexit “war cabinet” to formally discuss what trade deal Britain wants with the EU — whether to stay aligned with the EU’s trade rules and maintain close economic ties with the bloc, or seek more flexibility so Britain could strike its own trade deals around the world.
Among those who want more flexibility is Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who said that Britain would “have gone from a member state to a vassal state” if it continues to adhere to EU trade rules after Brexit.
“What we need to do is something new and ambitious, which allows zero tariffs and frictionless trade but still gives us that important freedom to decide our own regulatory framework, our own laws and do things in a distinctive way in the future,” he told the Sunday Times.
Brexit Secretary David Davis has said he wants Britain to adapt a free trade deal with the EU that’s more substantive than the one Canada has with the bloc. But the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, insists Britain has to “realize there won’t be any cherry picking.”
“No way. They have to face the consequences of their own decision,” he told Britain’s Prospect Magazine.
Later Monday, the prime minister will outline to Parliament her plans for the two-year transition period Britain wants to implement after it leaves the EU in March 2019.
May is expected to tell lawmakers that Britain wants its current access to European markets unchanged during the transition period — even though it would have formally left the EU’s single market and the customs union by then.
She is also due to say that Britain will seek to negotiate and strike trade deals with countries around the world during the transition.