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Brexit: a three course meal or a packet of crisps?

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Brexit: a three course meal or a packet of crisps?

Brexit: a three course meal or a packet of crisps?
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What is the UK's position on trade after Brexit?

"[leaving the customs union is like] giving up a three-course meal now in favour of the promise of a packet of crisps"

Sir Martin Donnelly Former top UK civil servant

After a brief show of unity amongst the UK Cabinet at the weekend, the cracks in the government's thinking have reappeared.

A leading Brexiteer, the country's International Trade Secretary remains adamant that membership of a customs union with the EU is out of the question. Liam Fox said:

"As rule takers, without any say in how the rules were made, we would be in a worse position than we are today. It would be a complete sellout of Britain's national interest and a betrayal of the voters in the referendum."

A soft Brexit?

Their campaign having got off to a shaky start, those calling for a softer Brexit, or indeed no Brexit at all, have gained some ground.

In a recent press interview, Liam Fox's own former permanent secretary, Sir Martin Donnelly, likened leaving the customs union to giving up a three-course meal for a packet of crisps. He also said that attempts to negotiate equal access to EU trade agreements without obeying European rules were "something for a fairy godmother - it's not going to happen".

The Eurosceptic leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, surprised everyone by lending his support to the idea of staying inside.

Pure illusion

Meanwhile officials in Brussels survey these very public discussions with some bemusement. Donald Tusk, leader of the European Council, characterised the UK government's reported position as "pure illusion".