May hopes to settle Brexit divisions

British Prime Minister Theresa May hopes on Thursday to settle disputes over her Brexit strategy that are dividing her cabinet and party, and frustrating her negotiating partners in the European Union.

At a meeting at a 16th-century country residence that is expected to continue into the evening, May and her so-called Brexit war committee of ministers will try to come to agreement over their preferred vision for Britain outside the EU.

Twenty months after Britons voted to leave the bloc in a referendum, May’s government has yet to put flesh on the bones of her vision for future ties – plans which were dealt a blow earlier when EU sources ruled out her proposal for managed divergence from the bloc’s rules as “cherry picking”.

Britain’s prime minister is also feeling the heat from Brexit hardliners in her party, who have called her acceptance of a status-quo transition after Britain leaves in March 2019 everything from a “betrayal” to “a perversion of democracy”.

While her aides suggest the meeting will not produce the fireworks some commentators expect, some lawmakers doubt whether an agreement can be found between those ministers who want to maintain close ties with the EU, and others who want to strike out alone and “diverge” from the bloc’s rules more quickly.

“This is part of the process and the PM and her cabinet colleagues are all looking forward to having a good constructive discussion at Chequers this afternoon,” her spokesman told reporters.

The meeting is expected to run from the afternoon to well after dinner at Chequers, the country home for British prime ministers since 1921, and its length has prompted some to suspect that any firm agreement will be hard won.

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