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Barnier to meet May and Davis for Brexit talks in No 10

Technical discussions on transitional arrangements to start on Brussels on Tuesday.

Theresa May and David Davis are to hold talks with Brussels’ chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier as officials prepare to open negotiations on transitional arrangements for after Britain leaves the EU.

The meetings will take place after Downing Street said the UK will “categorically” leave the customs union after Brexit.

The talks in Downing Street will mark the first time the trio have met since EU leaders gave the green light for the second phase of negotiations to start at their December summit in the Belgian capital.

Since the euphoria surrounding that meeting, fresh tensions have emerged after the European side insisted that EU law must continue to apply in the UK throughout the post-Brexit transition period – expected to last around two years.

Mrs May has already made clear that she intends to push back against the bloc’s demands that EU citizens who come to UK during the transition should enjoy the same rights as those who come before Britain leaves the EU on March 29 2019.

Ministers have complained said that the demand goes beyond what was agreed at the December summit but senior EU figures – including the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt – insist it is “not negotiable”.

The Government has also come under fire from its own backbenchers for agreeing that any changes to EU law which are passed during the transition will apply in the UK – even though Britain will have had no say in the decision-making process.

During a testy Commons committee hearing last month, Brexit Secretary Mr Davis was accused by the leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg of allowing Britain to become a “vassal state” of the EU – a charge he rejected.

The meeting in Downing Street will be followed on Tuesday by the first technical discussions by UK and EU officials in Brussels on the transition arrangements intended to ensure businesses and citizens are not faced with a “cliff edge” break when Britain leaves the bloc.

Meanwhile senior ministers are also preparing for the first discussions on Britain’s future relationship with the EU by Mrs May’s so-called “Brexit war cabinet”.

Members of the Cabinet Brexit sub-committee will meet on Wednesday and then again on Thursday as they seek to thrash out an agreement on thorny issues like customs arrangements with the remaining EU27.

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Brexit

The subject is so sensitive that the Prime Minister has previously declined to authorise any formal discussion in the group.

Over the weekend, Home Secretary Amber Rudd brushed aside warnings from hardline Brexiteers that Mrs May could face a leadership challenge if she fails to deliver a “clean Brexit”.

Ms Rudd said ministers would not be intimidated and insisted that there was greater agreement around the Cabinet table than MPs sometimes realised.

Downing Street sought to calm the fears of backbench critics insisting the Government was committed to leaving the customs union as well as the single market.

“It is not our policy to be in the customs union. It is not our policy to be in a customs union,” a source said.

The source said they would be seeking an “arrangement” with the EU to ensure trade remained as “frictionless” as possible after Brexit.

Some remain suspicious accusing Chancellor Philip Hammond of seeking to pursue his own policy aimed at keeping Britain as closely aligned as possible with the EU.

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