Chequers Brexit summit: Theresa May braced for ambush and resignations as top Tories descend on 12-hour country showdown

Theresa May is braced for an ambush and resignations as Cabinet ministers descend on Chequers in a showdown that will make or break her premiership.

Tory Leave-backers held dramatic crisis talks last night just hours before the Prime Minister summoned ministers to agree a ‘softer’ Brexit plan at a marathon 12-hour clash.

Top Tories arrived at her 16th Century country retreat this morning in their sleek ministerial cars – and could be leaving after dark in a taxi.

A No10 source warned the Prime Minister had already drawn up an “emergency reshuffle plan” if she’s hit with mass resignations by Brexiteers – and those who quit must take a taxi the 40 miles back to London.

Until then they are being locked in and surrendering their mobile phones to prevent leaks.

The source told the Politico website: “A select number of ego-driven, leadership-dominated Cabinet ministers need to support the PM in the best interests of the UK.

Her 16th Century country retreat in Buckinghamshire

Cabinet minister Chris Grayling arriving at today’s crunch Chequers showdown

Showdown time: Michael Gove turns up with his ministerial chauffeur

Cool glare: Justice Secretary David Gauke arrives at Chequers

“Or their spots will be taken by a talented new generation of MPs who will sweep them away.”

Tory Leaver Peter Bone offered to give a lift to fleets of resigning Brexiteers to save them the taxi fare.

“I will be on my way with my car, 4 seats available, guess another couple of cars will be required!” he tweeted.

International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt was one of the earliest arrivals at Chequers for the all-day Cabinet session.

Justice Secretary David Gauke and Transport Secretary Chris Grayling were both spotted being driven in.

And Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss inexplicably had pizza for breakfast.

Young Remain voters held aloft a banner declaring “your Brexit deal screws our future” this morning outside the PM’s Buckinghamshire bolthole.

But furious Brexiteer Tories fear the 120-page plan will not be ‘hard Brexit’ enough.

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Theresa May is braced for ambush and resignations as ministers descend on Chequers

Michael Gove – pictured on his way – was among Brexiteers at crisis talks last night

They erupted into fury after it emerged the White Paper, which promises “alignment” with EU rules on goods, could make a trade deal with the US much harder.

Theresa May’s deputy David Lidington today denied a trade deal with the US would be impossible – and said the claims were “pretty selective leaks of gobbets from Cabinet papers.”

But he did not deny they were accurate – saying only they were misquoted.

Young Remainers held a banner declaring “your Brexit deal screws our future”

The Our Future Our Choice campaigners pictured speaking to a police officer

Instead he said: “It’s like one of these theatre reviews that says this was not a brilliant performance and it goes up outside as ‘brilliant’.”

Mr Lidington said he was “confident” the Cabinet will have a “concrete position that everyone will be able to sign up to” when the summit ends at 10pm.

But seven top-level Brexiteers including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove were spotted meeting last night in what is expected to be a bid to harden up the plans.

Boris Johnson also met former Prime Minister David Cameron, The Times reported – though exactly what they said is disputed.

Theresa May has put off key decisions about whether to choose ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit, far or close links with the EU, for months due to Tory splits.

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Now she must make hard choices with just weeks of negotiation time left before the EU’s October deadline.

The key split is over how customs rules should work after Brexit.

Mrs May had put forward two options – but both were rejected.

Now she has put forward a “third way”, known as a Facilitated Customs Arrangement, that would let Britain set its own tariffs on goods in exchange for closely following EU standards.

Brexiteer ex-minister David Jones said Theresa May’s deal looked “not very good at all”.

Cabinet ministers Boris Johnson, David Davis and Gavin Williamson

He warned the red lines of leaving the customs union, single market and jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice “would be breached by what is being proposed today.”

But Remain-backing former Cabinet minister Nicky Morgan said ministers who don’t fall in line should resign.

“If somebody said ‘I just cannot live with this, this is not what I want’ then yes, I think that they would have to think about their position,” she told the BBC.

Tory Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street urged ministers who refuse to get behind Theresa May’s Brexit strategy to “get off the bus”.

Mrs May added: “This is about agreeing an approach that delivers decisively on the verdict of the British people – an approach that is in the best interests of the UK and the EU, and crucially, one that commands the support of the public and Parliament.”

Labour issued a mocking ‘Cabinet survival kit’ with a can to kick down the road – and a packet of fudge for if Theresa May continues to fudge her options.

It included a can to kick down the road, a sticking plaster – and a packet of fudge

It included a can to kick down the road, a sticking plaster – and a packet of fudge

Shadow Brexit minister Jenny Chapman said: “Tory infighting over Brexit has got so serious Labour has been left with little choice but to try and offer ministers a helping hand before this latest peace summit.

“But there is a serious point to this.

“Every single day the Government wastes arguing with itself puts jobs and the economy at risk and increases the chances of the UK crashing out without a deal.

“No deal would be the worst possible outcome for our country.”

What is the customs union – and what are the UK’s options after Brexit?

The EU has a ‘customs union’. This means the 28 states trade EU goods for free – and set an equal tariff on non-EU goods. For example, US car imports to the EU are taxed at 10%.

Being in this customs union helps the UK, because the EU is our biggest trading partner and it prevents lorry checks at the border.

Theresa May wants the UK to leave it because otherwise, Britain will have to follow EU rules and cannot strike trade deals around the world.

But this creates a huge row with Brussels – and a headache of how to keep the border open between Northern Ireland (UK) and the Republic (EU).

Britain was looking at two options:

Customs partnership: Liked by Remainers, branded “idiotic” by Brexiteers. Britain would stick close to EU tariffs on imports and collect them on behalf of the EU. If the UK tariff is lower than the EU one, firms would be able to reclaim the difference.

Maximum Facilitation – ‘Max Fac’: Liked by Brexiteers, but could cost firms £20bn a year. Would keep the UK separate from Brussels rules. High-tech tracking devices would try to cut bureaucracy. E.g. “Trusted” firms could pay tariffs at regular intervals, not every time they cross a border.

Both options were rejected so now Tories are reportedly considering this ‘third way’:

Facilitated Customs Arrangement: A compromise. The UK would leave blanket EU tariffs, allowing us to set our own import duties. But if goods are “unfinished” or destined to end up in the EU, Britain would still collect EU tariffs on Brussels’ behalf. And crucially, the UK would keep many of the same rules – “regulatory alignment” – as the EU on standards of goods.


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