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David Davis’ department denies change of approach to Brexit talks

Spokesman for Brexit Secretary said the approach outlined in the Lancaster House speech remained the official strategy.

Brexit Secretary David Davis’s Whitehall department has played down suggestions that officials have quietly downgraded ambitions for a “cake and eat it” deal when Britain leaves the European Union.

According to the Guardian, which quoted “insiders”, officials at the Department for Exiting the European Union (DExEU) are now presenting ministers with a choice between a deal similar to that enjoyed by countries in the European Economic Area (EEA) and single market, or a free trade agreement similar to the EU-Canada deal.

Theresa May’s strategy, set out in her Lancaster House speech in January, is to leave the single market and customs union to gain full control of immigration, but still strike a “comprehensive” free trade deal with cross-border commerce to be “as frictionless as possible”.

Participation in the EEA would risk a backlash from Brexit voters, as it would mean staying in the single market and therefore submitting to the free movement of EU citizens and European Court of Justice (ECJ) rulings.

But the UK’s trade with the EU would be less free in a Canada-style deal.

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However, the suggestions were rejected by a spokesman for Mr Davis, who denied there had been any change of mood since the election.

The spokesman said the approach outlined in the Lancaster House speech remained the official strategy.

Asked to respond to reports of ministers now being forced to consider a trade-off, he said they “did not recognise the language”.

It came as the Financial Times reported that a delegation from the City of London will travel to Brussels this week with its own blueprint for a free trade deal for financial services, independent of the Government.

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