LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May is today locked in with Cabinet ministers at her official country retreat of Chequers to chair what has been dubbed as a make-or-break Brexit meeting.
May is expected to push her top team, divided sharply in favour of or against a hard exit from the European Union (EU), to agree on plans that would see Britain remaining in full regulatory alignment with the EU on goods, but not services.
The prime minister, who is facing one of her biggest challenges yet over the issue of Britain's exit from the 27-member economic bloc following a referendum in favour of Brexit two years ago, has told her ministers that they have "a duty" to reach an agreement on Friday.
Ahead of the meeting, she said the Cabinet had "a great opportunity and a duty to set an ambitious course to enhance our prosperity and security outside the European Union and to build a country that genuinely works for everyone".
However, the divide between Eurosceptic and more pro-EU ministers persists over the terms of how closely the UK should stick to EU rules after Brexit.
"I'm pretty confident we will end up with a concrete position which everybody is able to sign up to," said Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington, hours before the meeting.
Under details of the meeting at Chequers, a 16th century home in Buckinghamshire used as the British PM's official country retreat, the ministers were expected to hand over all their smartphones and devices to ensure complete focus on thrashing out an agreement and also to prevent any leaks from the crucial meeting.
The more Brexiteer ministers, led by UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson, are said to have gone into the meeting still unconvinced by May's proposals.
Seven of them had met at the Foreign Office on Thursday evening to discuss the plans before Friday's meeting.
Opposition Labour's Keir Starmer, shadow minister for Brexit, said a workable agreement that could be taken to the EU was needed and "simply a truce in the Cabinet was not good enough for Britain".
The aim of Friday's meeting is to agree on a UK proposal on how future relations with the EU should work after Britain leaves on March 29 next year, the details of which would then be published in a White Paper next week.
That would then be the subject of negotiations with the EU, a process that is expected to create some further hurdles.