May gathers ministers for Brexit talks

May gathers ministers for Brexit talks

London - British Prime Minister Theresa May Wednesday summoned her senior ministers for their first talks on leaving the European Union since the summer break amid reports of major divisions over how to proceed.

Finance minister Philip Hammond reportedly wants Britain to negotiate a deal that would allow Britain to stay in the EU single market, while other ministers who campaigned for Brexit favour leaving.

There is also confusion over the responsibilities of different government departments in any negotiations with Brussels, particularly between the foreign, international trade and Brexit ministries.

The cabinet meeting at Chequers, the premier's country retreat northwest of London, is set to feature a brainstorming session on negotiating tactics with Brussels and key objectives.

Britain voted to leave the EU in a June referendum, prompting the resignation of May's predecessor David Cameron, who led the campaign to remain in the 28-nation bloc.

While May herself also favoured staying in, she has since insisted that "Brexit means Brexit".

The new premier has appointed a trio of anti-EU ministers to the most important Brexit departments, including Boris Johnson as foreign minister.

However, she will not trigger Article 50 - the formal process for leaving the EU - before the start of next year, despite pressure from other European nations to move faster.

The cabinet talks are likely to cover scenarios such as whether Britain should try and retain access to the European single market and the extent of restrictions on immigration from the EU.

Speaking on Tuesday, May's spokesman confirmed there would be no second referendum or snap general election, despite the hopes of some "Remain" campaigners that the process of leaving the EU could be stalled.

May is not expected to give MPs a vote on triggering Article 50, either. The spokesman said there was "no legal obligation" for her to consult parliament before doing so.

Preparations for Brexit are expected to ramp up across Whitehall as parliament reconvenes after the summer recess on Monday.

Civil servants are still being recruited to the "Brexit unit" which will do the groundwork for withdrawal.

Cameron banned key government departments from making contingency plans for Brexit - a move described as "gross negligence" by senior MPs.

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