On Monday, the Brexit inner Cabinet will finally have a proper discussion on what kind of trade deal with the EU, the UK wants. But this meeting won’t settle the question. Rather, it will be the start of a discussion.
Inside government, I write in The Sun this morning, an unofficial deadline of mid-January has been set for working out a position agreed by the whole Cabinet. The aim is that this should give the UK government a chance to work out its negotiating strategy before talks proper start in March.
Privately, senior figures in Downing Street admit that the government wasn’t as prepared as it should have been for the first round of these negotiations. They are keen not to repeat that mistake in this the second—and more important—phase of the talks.
The inner Cabinet will have a briefing on Monday from Theresa May’s top Brexit official, Olly Robbins. In a sign of how sensitive the discussions are, no papers are being circulated ahead of this meeting. But I understand that the briefing will concentrate on ‘three buckets’ and what the UK should put in each. One bucket is for where the UK wants to do the same thing as the EU in the same way; another is where the UK wants to achieve the same thing as the EU but in a different way; and one for where the UK wants to do things completely differently.