Theresa May has signalled Britain will stand firm on its Brexit demands in talks with the EU, as the Prime Minister insisted both sides would benefit.
Speaking on the final leg of a tour of Africa, Mrs May said the Chequers proposals, which triggered high-profile Cabinet resignations and have received a cool response from Brussels, are good for the EU.
The PM said: “Chequers delivers on the Brexit vote. It does it in a way that I believe is good for the UK.
“Obviously, we are in negotiations with the European Union, but I believe our proposals are not just good for the UK, but they are good for the EU as well.”
Mrs May added the Chequers plan offers economic flexibility, saying: “It ensures that we can maintain a good trading relationship with the EU while having the freedom to negotiate trade deals on our own behalf around the rest of the world.”
At a joint press conference with Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta, Mrs May said: “As Britain prepares to leave the European Union, we are committed to a smooth transition that ensures continuity in our trading relationship with Kenya.
“We are pursuing, of course, a good deal for trade with the EU once we have left the EU.
“But we will be looking to enhance our trade relationships around the rest of the world as well.
“Trade isn’t about one country doing better than another country, actually, trade is mutually beneficial.”
The comments came after it was reported that French president Emmanuel Macron has softened his stance towards London and is seeking a close post-Brexit relationship.
A new Continental structure would see “concentric circles” with the EU and euro at its core and the UK in a second ring, according to the newspaper.
The claims emerged after the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier struck an optimistic tone, stating: “We are prepared to offer Britain a partnership such as there never has been with any other third country.”
The comments helped trigger a sharp rise for sterling on the money markets.
As the deadline to Brexit approaches, London is intensifying its withdrawal agenda with Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt at an EU meeting in Austria on Thursday, and Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab due to hold talks in Brussels on Friday with Mr Barnier.
Mr Raab has indicated negotiations could go beyond the expected October deadline, telling a Lords committee: “I think it is important as we enter the final phase of the negotiations in the lead-up to the October council and the possibility that it may creep beyond that, we want to see some renewed energy.”
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said a “huge amount of effort” would be needed to come to a Brexit agreement.
Speaking as he arrived at an informal meeting of foreign affairs ministers in Vienna, he said: “Of course Brexit will come up, not as one of the main topics of discussion, but our priority here is to make sure that there is political will on all sides; we believe it is possible to come to an agreement.
“We think that is in the interests of the EU as well as the UK but it’s going to need a huge amount of effort in the weeks that we have now left to us.”