Prime Minister Theresa May is “leaning” towards asking for an agreement with the European Union that would see Britain shadow EU regulations after Brexit in return for access to the single market, according to a report by Politico.
Senior civil servants and Chancellor Philip Hammond have been encouraging the prime minister to ask for a “convergence” agreement, whereby Britain follows regulations set by Brussels in key areas.
Though the prime minister ruled out a Norwegian-style agreement with the EU in her Florence speech, this type of arrangement would be incredibly similar and may well result in Britain becoming a member of the European Economic Area which would leave Britain unable to set its own regulations in some areas.
Civil servants have reportedly been telling the prime minister it would be “mad” to do otherwise. “The PM is leaning to convergence based on advice,” one civil servant told Politico.
Such an agreement may also mean that Britain ends up making payments to the EU after Brexit, which would contradict the prime minister’s claim that “the days of making large payments to the European Union will be over.”
The move would anger senior cabinet secretaries including Boris Johnson, Michael Gove and Priti Patel who want Britain to have a clean cut from the European Union after the transitional period without Brussels dictating any rules or regulations post-2021.
Discussions about this in Whitehall are thought to have been the reason why Boris Johnson struck out last month, releasing a 4,000-word article in the Telegraph emphasising the need for Britain to take back control and stop making payments to the EU.
Whether or not the prime minister will go with the advice she’s receiving is unknown, but it would certainly shatter cabinet unity and lead to senior resignations.